A CHOCOLATE factory that produces the hottest chilli chocolate in the UK is on the lookout for bigger premises after quadrupling its number of orders.
Precious Chocolates in Shotton, Flintshire, has landed £60,000 worth of contracts in the last three weeks alone – the same amount the company would expect to secure in an entire year.
The rapid growth means they will also be taking on permanent staff in the future.
Precious Chocolates, which was established in 2007, will be attending this year’s Llangollen Food Festival for the first time, where the red hot chilli chocolate will be officially launched.
Managing Director Carl Gillard believes it is the hottest on the market.
He said: “The chilli used in the chocolates comes in between 35,000 to 40,000 heat units on the Scoville scale which measures the pungency of chilli peppers.
“People at Llangollen Food Festival should be aware that it’s hot! We’ve gone as hot as we can go with it.
“It’s important that when visiting our stall that children are accompanied by an adult as some of our lines contain allergens.”
Precious Chocolates will be among 120 stallholders at the festival, which will be staged at Llangollen Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15.
The event, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK by the Daily Telegraph and Independent newspapers.
Carl is currently working on orders for a number of major distributors and expects to have its lines in more than 4,000 shops across the UK – including high end department stores and garden centres – by the end of the year.
He runs the day to day operations and is supported by his wife Carole, who acts as company secretary outside of her full time job, and any temporary staff required to meet demand.
They have numerous flavours but specialise in coating raisins soaked in alcohol, white chocolate and chilli, and chocolate coffee beans.
Carl, 48, said: “The business is growing at a rapid rate at the moment. It’s almost impossibly busy but we’re doing it.
“The order base has quadrupled in the last couple of months – it’s gone ballistic.
“We sent out samples to five different companies at the start of the year and by May they’d obviously tasted it because orders started coming in.
“Just to put it into perspective, we’ve taken £60,000 worth of orders in the last three weeks which is what we’d normally take in a year.
“I physically have to take the stock to another factory to get it palate wrapped and then drive it to the delivery unit.
“And because I can’t fit it all in the van in one go I have to make multiple journeys.
“It’s gone crazy. We started out and growth has always been steady – it’s taken a lot of hard work and graft to build it up, and still does.
“It’s all a learning curve. Trying to manage the sudden growth at this time is the challenge now.”
Despite the surge in business, Carl is refusing to get carried away and has his feet firmly on the ground.
“I’m very much a realist”, he said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in the past.
“Only when we’ve completed the new orders will I feel that way about how things have grown recently – it’s just work we’ve got to do at the moment.
“We’ve got to get it done and it’s got to be right before it goes out. The work is piling up.
“There are things we want to achieve in the future, we’ve got great ideas and wonderful things we’d like to do but we base business on what we’ve done not dreams.”
It’s inevitable that the company will have to leave its existing premises on Rowley’s Park in Shotton and Carl is hoping to secure a council grant in order to move to a bigger unit, possibly at Deeside Industrial Park, and take on permanent staff.
He said: “It’s a lot of work on our shoulders. My wife is company secretary but has a full time job so we put in a lot of hours.
“We’re a small business and we’re getting to a point where we’ll need to move premises.
“Going forward we’ll need to take staff on permanently and they will need training. Grant assistance from the council will be crucial to us in the long term.”
Carl says he is looking forward to making his Llangollen Food Festival debut and will be bringing confectionary for visitors to sample that remains exclusive to the Precious Chocolates brand.
Phil Davies, a member of the committee at Llangollen Food Festival, said: “Chilli and chocolate are the perfect combination and I am looking forward to giving it a try.”
“Precious Chocolates will be among the record number of around 120 stall-holders at this year’s festival which promises to be the biggest and the best yet.”
To find out more about Precious Chocolates go to www.preciouschocolateslimited.co.uk and to find out more about Llangollen Food Festival go to www.llangollenfoodfestival.com