Chocolate firm looks broaden its horizons

SWEETENING EXPORTS: Chamber International export adviser, Hayley Bates'and Whitakers Chocolates sales manager, Ian Webster, at the company's base in'Skipton.
SWEETENING EXPORTS: Chamber International export adviser, Hayley Bates'and Whitakers Chocolates sales manager, Ian Webster, at the company's base in'Skipton.
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Confectionary firm Whitakers Chocolates is looking to boost export sales having teamed up with overseas trade specialist, Chamber International.

The Skipton-based business wants to increase sales in countries such as Germany.

Sales manager Ian Webster said: “We are already in a strong position with a great reputation for quality and recognised as one of the UK’s most successful chocolate brands. We know that we can build on this.

“We want to increase sales in Germany and Chamber International is supporting us by working with the German British Chamber of Commerce and the Enterprise Europe Network to help us find an agent or distributor.

“We have a relatively new exporting team and, to help develop it, are also attending Chamber International’s very useful exporting training courses.”

Whitakers supplies ten million chocolates a week to retailers, restaurants, hotels, cruise ships and garden centres around the world.

The family-owned business appointed Mr Webster to the newly-created role last year as part of an investment strategy to increase sales.

Mr Webster said: “Our initial strategy is to realise our untapped potential in markets where we already have a presence by creating more contacts through trade fairs, exhibitions and developing the right overseas partners.

“To this end, we are exhibiting at ISM, Cologne, France, the world’s biggest trade fair for sweets and snacks in January 2019.”

Whitakers was founded by John and Rebecca Whitaker in a grocery shop at nearby Crosshills in 1889. The business is now focusing on further innovation.

It has introduced personalised chocolate boxes and bars. The company has invested in a new machine that enables it to wrap personalised chocolate bars on site.

The privately-owned business, led by the fourth generation of the family, managing director, William Whitaker, has around 150 staff.

Whitakers has an annual turnover of £11.5m with around six per cent of that figure coming from overseas sales.

Mr Webster said: “As a 130-year-old company, we have not set ourselves precise sales targets or deadlines.

“We believe our reputation for high quality and versatility will enable us to achieve our objectives, by developing more outlets and sales volumes in existing markets and then looking at new territories as chocolate has a universal global appeal.”

Whitakers Chocolates, which makes milk and dark chocolates, 80 per cent of which are foiled wrapped, also has a catering range.

The business, which created one of the first chocolate mint wafers 40 years ago, currently exports as far afield as Austria, Barbados and Russia. Mr Whitaker says that the fact that the chocolates are produced in Britain means a lot overseas. He said the firm has a Romanian customer who repacks a lot of products but keeps the British flag as reference.

Chamber International helps new and experienced exporters throughout the UK with a wide range of specialist services to make exporting easier and more cost effective. Tim Bailey, director at Chamber International, said: “As high-quality chocolates have a universal appeal, and Whitakers Chocolates already has a great reputation overseas, many barriers to export success are removed and we look forward to continuing to advise the company as it realises its overseas potential.”