Tell us about the history of Montezuma’s
My husband and I started Montezuma’s, our little chocolate business, in 2000 with only a kitchen sink-sized machine, huge enthusiasm, spades of naivety and most importantly, a broad idea to bring chocolate innovation to a boring and staid British chocolate market.
With the exception of that first machine, little has changed and the childish enthusiasm we shared exploring South America in 1999 largely wakes up with us every morning! Being lawyers turned self-taught chocolate makers has meant steep learn- ing curves and often reinventing the wheel but everything we do is carried out with a passion for creating chocolate we want to eat in an environment we enjoy.
What we certainly didn’t train for or expect in our wildest dreams was that a business started on a shoestring would arguably become Britain’s most innovative chocolate brand with a reputation far bigger than our actual footprint!
Tell us how long you have been involved in the company
I’ve been involved in the company from the very start. I came up with the idea for the business along with my husband Simon. Walking around the beautiful town of Bariloche San Carlos in the Argentinian Lake District during a year long adventure with Simon, having escaped our legal careers to discover ourselves and South America.
It was filled with chocolate shops from tiny boutiques to a chocolate supermarket but all boasting the most amazing chocolate, and demonstrating retail theatre like I’d never seen before. I was hooked and determined to bring the ideas back to the UK where the chocolate offering on our high streets was incredibly unexciting.
What’s the state of the consumer chocolate market?
Key trends in the consumer chocolate market at the moment, which are also impacting the market, are growing demands for vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free chocolate. Montezuma’s has a large range of vegan chocolate available including our 100% cocoa chocolate, Absolute Black which is our best-selling chocolate. We are continuing to see a surge in sales as health-conscious Brits reach for a chocolate option that contains no added sugar – making it the perfect guilt-free snack.
We also have a milk chocolate alternative bar, which is organic called Like No Udder which is a wonderful creation of chocolate that is as close to milk chocolate as possible without ever going near a cow! It’s as smooth as regular milk chocolate but made without milk and is also suitable for vegans.
Tell us about your future expansion plan
All of our packaging has just been made either recyclable, compostable or biodegradable – a first for a Brit- ish chocolate company. We took on a large-scale recyclability project and the team at Montezuma’s looked at every aspect of our packaging materials.
As well as using recyclable inks, adhesives, stickers and tape, the company’s best-selling chocolate bars now come in 100% paper and card packaging, eliminating the non-recyclable metallised plastics used to wrap most products. We have even repurposed old packaging by shredding it and using it in our gift boxes. It didn’t make sense to us to create a completely recyclable range and then just dump the old packaging in landfill so we’re having to be very creative to repurpose it!
I am also really excited to be taking us through B Corp certification. B Corps are forming a community of businesses that believe businesses should be used as a force for good, and recognising that they shouldn’t be the best in the world but the best for the world.
Tell us about your relationship with NatWest and how they have assisted your company growth
We started working with NatWest a couple of years ago as part of a holistic approach to preparing the business for growth. We had very clear growth plans and we needed to bring on board a banking partner who understands these and who is equally excited about the next phase of our business growth. Starting from nothing, we have been through many growth phases but now we are set to expand our retail estate as well as our manufacturing. I feel very confident that NatWest will be there to support us during the inevitable highs and lows during this time.