A legacy in chocolate

Known for manufacturing the most delicious chocolates, Whitakers Chocolates creates amazing products for its own retail and catering brands, as well as private label items

To state that Whitakers Chocolates is an institution in Skipton, North Yorkshire could be seen as an understatement. With its roots in the town stretching back 130 years, Whitakers has evolved from a small shop on the high street to a modern, state-of-the-art production facility that manufactures in excess of ten million chocolates per week.

In fact, the business has evolved from creating chocolates by hand in the back of the shop to a 150-strong workforce, and this expert team supplies wholesalers, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, independent retail shops and other manufacturers both nationally and internationally. Its range includes personalised chocolate Neapolitans, fondant creams, chocolate pieces and wafers, truffles and fudge, sugar confectionery and much more.

The heritage and history of Whitakers is a source of immense pride to the Whitaker family, three members of which still run the company today. Great-grandson of founders John and Rebecca Whitaker, William Whitaker is now the Managing Director, and he noted the importance of staying true to family values. “To reach a milestone such as our 130th anniversary is truly satisfying but we realise we cannot take anything for granted,” he added. “We work hard to maintain our strong culture, which is largely based on quality, loyalty and integrity.”

William also highlighted the company’s recognition that it is necessary to ‘continually evolve, invest and sometimes reinvent yourselves.’ This philosophy is perfectly illustrated by Whitakers’ recent rebranding project, the results of which were unveiled in the summer of 2019. He explained further the reasoning behind the change. “The current logo had been going strong for nearly 50 years and celebrating 130 years in business, we saw this as a great opportunity (and birthday present!) to convey everything that the company stands for whilst preparing for the next 130 years.”

Positive feedback
Gemma Whitaker, Marketing Manager of Whitakers Chocolates added: “From the outset we were aware that introducing a new logo would be a balancing act. We wanted to convey that this was a new, reformed logo but also wanted to stay true to our proud heritage. With this in mind, we agreed that we should incorporate our much-loved candelabra into the design and revert to a mono colour palette, therefore paying homage to how the original Whitakers Chocolates logo used to look all those years ago. Overall I feel our new logo achieves this and more.”

The new motif incorporates the prominent line design that features on Whitakers’ chocolates as well as the candelabra – and the words ‘Since 1889’, the year the company was established.

The redesigned logo has already been receiving positive feedback, which William said is giving the company confidence to move forward with further changes. “The implementation of the new logo will kick off more rebranding work, with the development of new retail packaging styles and new product launches set for January 2020,” he confirmed.

With William referring to packaging, it should be noted that two key factors in the rebranding exercise were recyclability and plastic reduction, and he revealed that the company worked closely with leading specialist, Qualvis, to create the new, innovative packaging styles. “We want consumers to love them, but at the same time reduce plastics and increase recyclability across the whole range,” he asserted. “Where certain plastics are needed, we have made the move to use clear, recyclable materials. Going forward, we will continue to develop and reduce our carbon footprint.”

New hearts range
It is clear that 2020 is shaping up as a year of exciting launches for Whitakers as part of its wider rebranding programme. “This includes our new retail range, which features a bold new look and extended product offering, such as foiled chocolate hearts, truffles, truffle spheres and new flavours of fondant creams. We are pleased to announce that from 2020 most Whitakers Chocolates’ branded retail products will be Fairtrade and our dark chocolate products, whether in retail or food service, have been registered by the Vegan Society,” expounded William, acknowledging the increasing demand from consumers for plant-based alternatives.

Another major step forward for next year is the official launch of a new 6g solid foiled milk chocolate heart product. “We specialise in the wrapping of individual chocolate pieces, whether they are foiled and banded, foiled or flow wrapped, and adding a new process to produce and wrap hearts has been an exciting 12-month project, run by our in-house team,” said William. “This extension of our product offering is an exciting development to the business and one that opens up different marketing opportunities in new sectors. Whilst we are launching this product using our milk chocolate, any customers wishing to develop their own hearts can choose from our large range of chocolate and flavour options subject to certain minimum order requirements.” The launch of the hearts will take place at the 2020 ISM tradeshow in Cologne (2 – 5th February) and Whitakers is keen to invite visitors to its stand (K21) to view and sample the new range.

Exciting times ahead
The release of the foiled heart product would not have been possible without the addition of a new process to the factory floor. William noted that a purpose-built foiling machine was engineered by Whitakers’ in-house engineering team and is capable of wrapping 200 pieces per minute. “The new hearts are wrapped in a double-sided printed foil using food safe inks, initially in red foil with additional colours set for launch in early 2020. They will be available in bulk and retail formats,” he said.

From speaking to William and Gemma, the next 12 months are looking full of positive developments for Whitakers, and part of this success can be attributed to the company’s determination to approach the challenges of 2019 with a policy of investment and people development. “Like many businesses have experienced, this year has been full of frustration and uncertainty,” William maintained. “However, whilst some areas of the business have remained flat, other areas of our organisation have grown well, namely the development of our own brand and personalised gifting.” He also acknowledged some highlights from Whitakers’ anniversary year: “The development of our export sales, specifically in Canada and new channels in the UK were high points. We were also awarded our first Great Taste Award for one of our new products (Dark Chocolate Ginger Wafers) and we won silver in the National Family Business Awards within the Food and Drink category.”

With less than one month left of 2019 [at time of writing] and extremely positive feedback about its brand changes still coming in, William and his team intend on using it as momentum to move the Whitakers’ brand forward into new markets and to appeal to a wider audience. “One key objective for 2020 is to build and launch two new websites to develop our online sales to the B2C and B2B markets,” he declared. “We also intend exhibiting at the Winter BBC Good Food Show (NEC – Birmingham) in 2020 where we will be showcasing our new Whitakers branded retail range.”

Exciting times are indeed ahead for everyone involved with Whitakers – with the rebranding taking it from strength-to-strength, it is not only futureproofing its business, but it is also setting the tone for future developments in its ever-changing marketplace.