Mars agrees major £534 million deal to acquire British confectionery brand Hotel Chocolat

Global confectionery business Mars has made a successful £534 million bid for UK premium confectionery brand, Hotel Chocolat, in the wake of the British firm’s financial struggles as it sought to continue opportunities to expand and evolve the business, writes Neill Barston.

Co-founders Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris had founded the business in 2004, and had enjoyed notable growth for the company in setting up ventures in the US, as well as significantly expanding its retail presence, and manufacturing capabilities.

But, as reported by the Financial Times, the company went from a £21 million profit (year to July), to posting a loss of £800,000, with the company recently forced to pull out of its fledgling stores in America amid reported weakening demand. Similar moves to establish a foothold in Japan also encountered difficulties surrounding the pandemic.

The company’s founders are believed to be being offered a total of £280 million for the business, with Thirlwell reportedly stating that he was keen to stay on with the company under new ownership for the next five years, as its operations will be set to receive major investment.

Notably, the Hotel Chocolat brand had been set up as a disruptor to majors such as Mars, with the business even setting up its own ethical sourcing through its own plantation in St. Lucia, complete with accompanying hotel, which the business stated had yet to return to pre-pandemic levels of trade.

Speaking on the move, Angus Thirlwell said: “We know our brand resonates with consumers overseas, but operational supply chain challenges have held us back. By partnering with Mars, we can grow our international presence much more quickly, using their skills, expertise and capabilities.”

It is not though that there will be immediate job losses from the company’s workforce, believed to be around 3,000 employees, as a result of the acquisition, which is set to be formally delivered in January 2024.

Furthermore, in a note to subscribers of the brand, CEO Angus Thirlwell confirmed his intention that he will remain with the business, and that Mars in fact shared its values and priorities as a company.

He said: “I would like to reassure you that our mission to make people and nature happy through re-inventing chocolate very much remains in place. We will operate as a standalone brand that sits within Mars. I will remain as CEO of Hotel Chocolat and we will continue to focus on creating our unique chocolates with more cacao, less sugar.”



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