American and Japanese tastebuds are far more similar than first thought – especially when it comes to chocolate, according to the boss of Hotel Chocolat.
Angus Thirlwell’s pronouncement came as his business opened new stores in Japan and the US, with heavy focus on future international expansion.
He said: “We have the potential in the US and Japan to grow business and that’s what we’re focused on, but we’ll do it in a careful, measured way.
“The tastes are very similar to the UK. We’re not having to adapt very much, and if we do it’s going to be in most cases attractive to UK sectors.
“There’s a lot of myths and legions about what US and Japanese consumers like. We did quite big tasting panels and what we saw was the recipes most highly thought of by UK consumers were the same.”
He was speaking as Hotel Chocolat revealed sales of £132 million in the year to July 1 – a jump of 14%. The company said profit before tax will be “in line” with market expectations.
During the year, the company opened 16 new sites, including two in the US, and entered a joint venture in Japan, opening two stores in Tokyo.
Mr Thirlwell added that key to the British chocolatier’s success will be innovation, with new products and services.
In particular, he said customers have been keen on Hotel Chocolat’s new in-home chocolate drinking machine, the Velvetiser.
But Mr Thirlwell was keen to insist that “to keep our credibility, new products need to have some relevance to the brand”.
Hotel Chocolat has defied the gloom others on the high street have felt, and the company said it plans to identify and open new stores in a measured way.
Mr Thirlwell also said there are minimum concerns over Brexit, with key overseas ingredients, including nuts and cocoa beans, being able to be stored for long periods prior to use.