Chocolate maker savours success after securing increasing chunk of high end market
- Credit: Photo: Keith Mindham Photography
A top quality Suffolk chocolate maker set up from scratch four years ago has scooped an award for its remarkable growth.
Since setting up and moving from Orford to Bentwaters airfield at Rendlesham, Pump Street Chocolate, run by father-and-daughter team Chris and Joanna Brennan, has increased its chocolate output from about one tonne to an expected 30 tonnes this year, building up a large base of discerning customers across the UK and abroad.
It has now scooped the inaugural APC SME (small and medium enterprise) Growth Award for the East England region.
The pair started out seven years ago with a successful bakery and café business in the picturesque village of Orford, which today attracts queues of weekend customers. Overall, they employ about 35 to 40 staff, selling chocolate to about 300 outlets in the UK, and hundreds more across America, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy.
Their cocoa bean farmer suppliers are all hand-picked and known by them. "We carry that traceability right the way through the process," says Chris. Products include bars, Easter chicks and eggs, Santa Claus and chocolate drops for chefs.
Chris spent 30 years at IBM in computer marketing and moved to Orford about 20 years ago, while Joanna was a speech therapist.
They are both self-taught in the crafts of baking and chocolate-making, but Chris believes that their approach has meant they have learnt how to create optimum products. "We make the best you can get," he says. "I decided to make chocolate because you couldn't get really great chocolate in the UK."
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As well as orders flying out of the door on the chocolate-making site, the bakery business is also booming.
"We have more people that want to come into the bakery than we have space - at the weekend, it's hectic," says Chris. "We focus on quality. Every single thing we sell in the bakery with one exception is baked the day it's sold. The chocolate is the same - we only use the best beans."
Underpinning the business are the "best people" - the company has signed up to the 'real living wage' charter of at least £9 an hour. "The customer experience is massively important," says Chris. "We absolutely don't try and cut corners."
Delivery firm APC, whose Rapid Dispatch distributes Pump Street Chocolate's confectionery across the UK, said the company stood out for its impressive growht in turnover and employees.
Judges were also impressed by its innovative marketing through pop-up shops in London, and the way it worked collaboratively with other small businesses in its community.
Joanna says they are "absolutely delighted" to win the award. "We are a proud family run business, with relationships and the community at the heart of our success, meaning that quality customer service and efficient delivery is essential."
Jonathan Smith, chief executive of APC, said: "At a time when UK SMEs are thriving, the Growth Awards celebrate the vital role they play in their local economies. Pump Street Chocolate is a perfect example not only of this business growth, but also of innovation and community engagement. They are a very worthy winner, and a business we are proud to work with at APC."
The awards were judged by Jonathan Smith, chief executive of APC, Richard Alvin, group managing director of Capital Business Media, and Richard Butler, West Midlands director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).