A new era of excellence

As it celebrates another milestone anniversary in its rich history, Whitakers Chocolates is embarking on an exciting re-branding programme for the business, highlighted by the introduction of several new products

As we all know, a lot can change in a year, and even more so in the space of 130 years. During this time, an untold number of businesses in the food and drink world will have come and gone, with only the very best standing the test of time thanks to a combination of quality goods and the ability to adapt quickly. The year 2019 is one where Whitakers Chocolates can proudly reflect on being such a standout business, as it marks the 130th anniversary of founders John and Rebecca Whitaker establishing their chocolate manufacturing enterprise. Today, this enterprise offers a range of catering and retail products, from chocolate wafers, fondant creams and Neapolitans, to truffles, fudge and personalised gift boxes.

Five generations of the Whitaker family have since led the company through decades of growth and prosperity, with current Managing Director William Whitaker today driving forward a strategy where the emphasis rests on developing the Whitakers Chocolates brand. “In 2018, we spent a lot of time planning for how we would mark and celebrate our 130th anniversary, with the decision taken that we would mark this occasion with a complete re-brand of the business,” William details.

“By entering into consultation with both our own team and outside professionals, we plan to take the very best bits of what has made Whitakers Chocolates so successful and add a touch of evolution, be that in the form of new designs, new logos, new packaging or additional products that can fill gaps in the market that we identify,” he continues. “The end result will be a new, contemporary look for the brand, which we hope will create fresh appeal to a wider audience and therefore even-greater opportunities across the globe.”

Developing exports
Over the course of the last 12 months or so, the company has also worked hard to improve its profile, directing its time and resources to achieve better margins, more successful product sales and greater security in core areas. One of these has been its international sales, which benefitted greatly from the appointment of Ian Webster as Sales Manager in November 2017. “Ian’s appointment marked the first time in the company’s history that it had brought in a dedicated Sales Manager, whose task it was to oversee our investment programme to drive both UK and export sales forward,” William reveals.

In the year since Ian joined the company, Whitakers Chocolates has been working hard to further develop its export business, which saw not only strong growth in Europe, but also a 20 per cent increase in orders to Canada. Then, in November 2018, another first in terms of job roles at Whitakers Chocolates came into being, with Gemma Whitaker coming on-board as Marketing Manager. “Gemma brings with her a strong background in advertising sales and marketing, and in tandem with myself and Ian, she will be working towards maximising growth opportunities with our existing and new customers,” William adds.

Bespoke products
The efforts made by the company in the last year or more came to a culmination, of sorts, this past January with its first appearance in five years at ISM – the world’s largest trade fair for sweets and snacks, held in Cologne between January 27th and January 30th. Here, the company used the event to launch its new retail range in celebration of the aforementioned anniversary celebrations.

“When looking specifically at extensions to our established range of products, we are always examining how we can introduce items that will appeal to either the same market segments that we have become well known in, or those that we feel that we can tap into at no extra cost thanks to our background in food service and catering, for instance,” William explains. “One example of the extensions we are making to our range include new flavours of our wafers, with spicy ginger, sea salt and caramel, and orange now complementing our iconic mint wafer.

“We are also excited to be adding a range of chocolate bars to our product portfolio. Whereas previously we have not seen an opportunity for such products, by spending more time developing the Whitakers Chocolates brand we have identified how we can use bar development on two fronts. The first is as a branded ‘icon-hero’ product, while the second will be geared towards the personalisation of bars. With the chocolate being hermetically wrapped and sealed in foil separately to its packaging, we have the flexibility to sell these foil wrapped 53bars to those who want to add their own personalisation to them.”

Other products that were showcased at ISM included an array of bespoke gift box solutions, chocolate truffles, solid milk chocolate hearts and honeycomb bites. The latter is another product that is entirely new to Whitakers Chocolates, and comes in a range of three flavours.

“In celebrating 130 years since the formation of the business, our product range has arguably never been more appealing to the retail, foodservice and personalised markets,” William goes on to conclude. “Our investment in people, product and processes has given us the ideal foundation upon which to achieve our sales growth target of over £500,000 for the year ahead, and means that today the company finds itself with better opportunities for growth than perhaps it ever has had in its long, storied history.”