Mars is to buy Hotel Chocolat in a surprise cash deal worth £534 million to help boost the luxury British chocolate brand’s expansion overseas.
The move will help Hotel Chocolat, which has 130 stores across the UK and also has a presence in Japan, to ‘grow further and faster’ as it said operational supply chain challenges have forced it to scale up internationally. Development has been ‘paused’.
Hotel Chocolat shares surged 161 per cent this morning in reaction to the acquisition by Mars Inc. – which also owns the Celebration, Dove, M&M and Snickers food brands.
Mars said it would pay 375p per share – a huge premium of 170 per cent over Hotel Chocolat’s closing share price of 139p last night.
Mars has announced it will buy Hotel Chocolate in a £534m deal to help the UK-based luxury chocolate brand expand its sales overseas.
Hotel Chocolat was named after the luxury hotel on its Saint Lucian cacao estate, which overlooks the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the island’s iconic Petit Piton mountain.
Chief executive Angus Thirlwell said: ‘The destiny of the Hotel Chocolate brand is to become a leading premium chocolate brand in key markets by reinventing chocolate for people and nature.
‘In Mars we have found a true meeting of the minds – in strong cultural values, bold strategy and true sustainability.
‘Our Gentle Farming program is off to a promising start and we truly believe it can help make cocoa farming fairer for nature and people. There is a great attraction for us to connect with Mars to gain more positive influence.
‘We know our brand is popular with consumers overseas, but operational supply chain challenges have held us back. “By partnering with Mars, we can harness their skills, expertise and capabilities to more rapidly expand our international presence.”
Chief executive Angus Thirlwell founded the brand 20 years ago with the aim of bringing ethical and affordable luxury chocolate to the British high street.
With 130 stores across the UK, Hotel Chocolat also has a presence in Japan
The owner founded the brand 20 years ago with the goal of bringing ethical and affordable luxury chocolate to the British high street.
Mr Thirlwell, known as Britain’s real-life Willy Wonka, previously told the Mail that he set up the shop after giving up a career in computing.
‘I met co-founder Peter Harris at a computer firm in Cambridge. “Computing is very complex, we talked about doing something simple,” he said.
‘We started selling peppermint – it was the most niche product ever. “After some time, customers wanted a range of products so we started focusing on chocolate.”
The entrepreneurial family is no stranger to running their own business of selling sweets.
His father, Edwin Thirlwell, co-founded Mister Whippy before selling it and moving the family to Barbados.
He first became interested in the process of making chocolate when he was living in the Caribbean.
Mr Thirlwell said: ‘All the chocolate in Barbados was American and I wasn’t too keen on it.
‘Instead we drank chocolate tea, which is a healthier, simpler version of hot chocolate that you make by boiling ground cocoa beans and adding milk and sugar.’