Spotlight: James Cadbury unveils latest HiP plant-based chocolate series

As the great-great-great grandson of Cadbury’s founder John Cadbury, James Cadbury has some serious confectionery pedigree. Neill Barston quizzes him about the ongoing development of his own ethically focused business, Love Cocoa, over the past five years in the UK, and development of a new oatmilk brand HiP, with 35% less sugar.


Q: How has the business coped with the past twelve months during the coronavirus pandemic?

A: “For the last year with the pandemic starting just after ISM, in the UK we had a lockdown, and our production had to stop for four weeks, which put a bit of strain on our supply chains. But since then, the factory we work with has put in additional restrictions for manufacturing, and social distancing measures in response to coronavirus conditions. From a sales and marketing perspective, we have actually had a really great year, as people seem to be eating a lot more chocolate and comfort food with the year that we have had.”


Q: Have you managed to make the most of new opportunities amid present market challenges?

A: “We’ve always been quite online, B2C focused, which has been one of our main routes, and have seen that grow this year as well. I think it’s important to have those direct channels with your customers. We have spotted opportunities with corporate sales, working from home boxes to send out, and I think that one of the reasons we have actually done well this past year is that we have been quick to adapt.”


Q: How have you handled logistics issues during the pandemic, and in particular, with regard to Brexit?

A: “We work with our manufacturing partner in the North of England, and they’ve handled a lot of the operation and logistics issues. One area that has been quite challenging for us is getting hold of our raw materials. We source all our own chocolate and packaging and make sure that gets to our manufacturer on time, but that’s been challenging with suppliers taking longer, and a lot of things coming from outside of the UK, with issues relating to Brexit and our ports. So, I imagine that it’s going to be challenging for the coming months ahead.”

Q: You’ve enjoyed some notable successes in the past year, including a major tree planting scheme in Cameroon. Did this achieve its aims?

A: “We came up with the idea last year that we wanted to give back with the environment and to help cocoa farmers who are a key part of the supply chain, who often get forgotten about and are underpaid. So, we decided that for every bar or tube of truffles that we sold, we would plant a new tree in Cameroon – managing to plant a total of 500,000 in 2020, which was done by cocoa farmers. The great thing about it was that it was great for the environment, and as a company, it’s meant we have managed to reduce our CO2 to negative, which is amazing. Just as importantly, it has given those farmers an extra source of income. There were about 15 different species planted, and they have been able to use the fruit from these trees to sell at their local markets, and that has been important for communities out there in Africa. We’ve also engaged with charities and organisations closer to home, including working on a project with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, in which over one weekend, for every chocolate bar we sold, we donated the same amount to the NHS.”


Q: This month sees the formal roll-out of its plant-based confectionery series, HiP, which has just gained additional listings at WHSmiths Travel retail –  how is this new venture shaping up?

A: “We’ve created our HiP chocolate, which is one of the first oatmilk chocolate ranges in the world. Over the past year in lockdown we have been working with a supplier out in South America. At the moment, most of the vegan bars out there are all rice based milk, and for me, these were nowhere near as good or as creamy, so looking at what was missing, oatmilk appeared to be by far the fastest growing category of milk and we were surprised that It hadn’t really been done before. We are just launching that now in four flavours, and we believe it’s going to appeal mostly to millennials with its packaging style, so we’ll be aiming it at that target market.”


Q: What in your view has led to rise in dairy-free and vegan markets that are fast rising around the world?

A: “I think a lot of people are reducing their meat and dairy intake, and brands like Oatly that have come to the market and spent a lot on marketing to get their message out there. So gradually, people are understanding that there are environmental consequences of the choices they make with what they are eating. People are really deciding that they are making changes to the way they want to live, so it’s a combination of lots of different things. It’s been driven by younger people, so we have focused on that market, and we’ve already secured some amazing retail listings for it.”

Q: Though Love Cocoa was formed very much on your own terms, how has being part of the Cadbury dynasty influenced your outlook?

A: “As a child, I lived around five-ten minutes away from the Bournville Cadbury chocolate factory, and I had lots of parties there, so I’ve always been passionate about chocolate growing up, and it’s great that I am able to be in the industry now with the family’s heritage. I feel very lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I think probably the biggest challenge that lies ahead is in tackling the virus, as we just don’t know when that’s going to end, as well as Brexit and the amount of customs documents that are required for that with regards to freight businesses. But I am sure that we’ll recover by the end of the year, it may take a little longer, but we just have to stay positive and the economy will start to recover. As a business, we’re really excited about what’s going to be happening over the next year.”


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