City aims to be first town of chocolate bar none

Terry's Sweet Keeper Les Pierce and Casey Brett aged 11 from New Earswick Primary School with chocolate map of Britain, in the Terry's Sweet Shop.
Terry's Sweet Keeper Les Pierce and Casey Brett aged 11 from New Earswick Primary School with chocolate map of Britain, in the Terry's Sweet Shop.
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The Romans named it “Eboracum” and the Vikings dubbed it “Jorvik”.

Now tourism chiefs are looking to brand the ancient city of York as “Britain’s Home of Chocolate” as part of a major drive to showcase its proud confectionary history which stretches back more than 100 years.

Yesterday the launch of a new Chocolate Trail marked the start of a new marketing campaign which is set to put York on the map as the nation’s capital of chocolate.

Spearheaded by Visit York, “Indulge Yourself in the Home of Chocolate” will see a series of new chocolate events and attractions launched across the city, which the tourism group’s chief executive, Gillian Cruddas, believes will deliver a sweet success in boosting York’s already flourishing tourism sector.

She said: “The city is claiming its rightful status as Home of Chocolate. Throughout its history, York has been awarded many different titles from the Romans, who chose Eboracum, meaning ‘place of the yew trees’, to the Vikings who named it Jorvik, meaning ‘horse bay’, and now we are claiming the city’s rightful association with chocolate.

“For centuries, the confectionery industry has shaped the city and it continues to satisfy the nation’s undiminished appetite for one of our favourite indulgences. Now is the right time to tell York’s chocolate story to the world.”

The new trail, which visitors can follow on their smart phones, will see walkers embark on a tour around all the buildings in the city that have a chocolate connection, as well as chocolatiers and restaurants that specialise in all things sweet.

Also planned is the opening of a new £2m visitor attraction on March 31 branded Chocolate: York’s Sweet Story, which will celebrate the past and future of the confectionery industry.

Last September the Yorkshire Post revealed work had started on the 6,400 sq ft site in King’s Square at the end of the city’s famous Shambles. The project is being overseen by York-based firm Continuum, which helped to establish one of the city’s other leading attractions, the Jorvik Viking Centre.

York’s first ever Chocolate Festival is also set to take place on April 6–9, which has been organised by chocolatier, Sophie Jewett from York Cocoa House.

Miss Jewett, who has previously created chocolate-themed programmes for the York Food and Drink Festival, said: “It has grown and grown and we decided that it was the perfect time to create a chocolate festival for the city.

“We have got a lot of fantastic events planned at different locations and attractions around York, including a chocolate party at the top of York Minster, which will allow people to see how the city was shaped by chocolate from a very special view.

“The new campaign is absolutely wonderful and I think it will be a huge success. There’s such a strong story here in York and it’s a story that people are so passionate about.”

York is the birthplace of some of the world’s biggest confectionary dynasties including Terry’s and Rowntrees, which is currently celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The industry continues to flourish in the city and 80,000 tonnes of confectionery are produced in York each year at one of the largest chocolate factories in the world, including the world’s most successful chocolate bar, Kit Kat. A surge in the number of independent chocolatiers opening in the city and a global research centre dedicated to confectionery innovation helps York to stake its claim as the ‘Home of Chocolate”.

Mrs Cruddas said: “There has never been a better time for us to stake this claim and I think it will give us marketers even more reason for encouraging people to come to the city. It would be quite interesting if Bournville questions that claim, that would be quite nice in itself. George Cadbury Junior and Lewis Fry started their apprenticeships in York at Joseph Rowntree’s family grocery shop in York, which proves it all started here in the city. Hopefully people will want to come to York to find out more about it.”

Chocolate maker and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree developed the family’s chocolate firm to become an international success that lives on today.

His great-greatgrandson, and York Nestlé Confectionery employee Giles Naish, said: “It is fantastic York is celebrating being a chocolate city.

“Confectionery has been integral in shaping the city for generations. Not only a proud heritage but a bright future as York continues to be a confectionery centre of excellence globally.”

Sweet dreams are made of this

York’s line-up of attractions and events which are being launched as part of Visit York’s new ‘Indulge Yourself in the Home of Chocolate’ campaign includes:

Chocolate – York’s Sweet Story, a new visitor attraction opening on March 31 that celebrates the story of chocolate in York;

Chocolate Festival (April 6-9) a new four-day chocolate festival for the city;

Chocolate Trail, a chocolate-themed walking trail with sweet treats at every turn;

Rowntree Trail, inviting you to walk the history of Rowntree’s in the city;

City Screen Cinema is expected to repeat a screening of archive film footage of the city’s landmark manufacturers, which proved hugely popular last year.