From conching and refining their own chocolate bars to purveying 3-star Michelin restaurants, Artisan du Chocolat has broken the mould and redefined modern luxury British chocolates since 1999. In this interview, RLI discusses with Chairman & CEO Mohamed Elsarky what his plans are for the brand moving forward to help it reach its undoubted global potential.
Artisan du Chocolat is a luxury British chocolatier that offers its own unique and delicious range of chocolates through its branded stores in London, online and through co-manufacturing for some of the leading premium retailers in the UK.
Founded in 1999 by Anne Weyns, she continues in the business today in her role as Chief Chocolate Adventurer for a company that has attracted praise from the best of the best in its 21-year history, with Gordon Ramsay being their first customer dubbing it “the Bentley of Chocolate” and Michel Roux Jnr describing their products as “the leading light in the world of modern chocolate”.
The business has recently announced the sale of a majority stake to former Godiva Chairman & CEO Mohamed Elsarky, who with a global FMCG and private equity background was responsible for the turn-around and expansion of Godiva as the leading prestige retailer of Belgian chocolates across international markets.
“Artisan du Chocolat has tremendous unexplored potential to extend its unique creations to consumers worldwide,” comments Mohamed Elsarky, Chairman & CEO of Artisan du Chocolat. “We plan to expand the company’s retail presence initially to Asia, Europe and the Middle East followed by North America and Latin America over the next five years. We also see tremendous growth opportunities in wholesale and travel retail.”
After a difficult year, Elsarky feels the next 12 months will be a time for the brand to focus on building both capacity and capabilities to meet projected demand and to prepare for future growth whilst also developing the online platform.
“You always need to start with excellent products that surprise and delight consumers. Due to the creativity and innovative thinking displayed by Anne Weyns, Founder and current Chief Creative Adventurer, we have these in abundance. Now we need to elevate our brand awareness and create a must-have desire to experience our products in a welcoming and interactive environment,”Elsarky explains.
Innovation is a constant obsession for the company and it is something they never stop thinking about. Recently they have been working diligently on switching their recipes for boxed chocolates to plant-based recipes, all the while ensuring there is no compromise on taste. Under its Beankind banner that produces vegan products, they are currently developing a range of plant-based chocolates, truffles and chocolate snacks not only for vegans, but to try and encourage everyone to increase the amount of plant-based food and treats that they try and enjoy.
In addition, they are planning a range of chocolate bars that have functional properties. I mean, who wouldn’t want a luxurious chocolate bar that not only tastes great, but also possesses ingredients that plump the skin or rejuvenate you after a long flight?
Finally, they are aiming to bring their hot chocolate to more consumers. Since their inception in 1999 at Borough market, they have been known to serve one of the most indulgent, intense and satisfying hot chocolates on the market. The goal is make this small luxury available to more customers in the comfort of their own homes by packing it in a format that can be suitable for retailers.
So how does the company intend to maintain its niche position in the market?
“By always creating new products and formats that are not in the market today and responding to consumer tastes. The combination of ingredients, taste and functional properties, where we have already demonstrated success, gives us huge scope to develop new products and keep the consumer’s appetite whetted.”
As part of the business’s plan moving forward, they will be increasingly focusing their efforts in the social media arena to reach their target audience and share their exciting offers. With a presence on Instagram and Facebook, they plan to increase customer engagement through social channels and grow their audience. After all #chocolate has 88 million posts on Instagram.
Elsarky comments that a key area for the brand is sustainability, this is critical not only to the brand ethos that has been built, but also because he feels it is the right thing to do. “For us, we work with cocoa companies mostly in South America that are not only paying a fair price for cocoa but are actively involved in providing agroforestry training, seedling as well as supporting local community projects.”
Artisan du Chocolat has enjoyed some great success to date, and Elsarky feels this is because of its outstanding innovative products, the quality of ingredients, exceptional customer service and remaining true to the values of the brand.
“Our challenge is to keep up with demand for our products and we are addressing this now and we also need to learn to cope with exponential growth and to grow our organisation together for future success,” he concludes.