ChocStar, the novelty range of gift chocolate from the Scots entrepreneur behind the high-end Chocolate and Love brand, is achieving spectacular growth in some of Europe's top shops, and is currently obtaining regulatory approval to break into new markets in Thailand and South Korea.
Launched in September, the bars of premium milk chocolate, which feature designs of dogs and cats as celebrities, are already being sold in stores in 10 countries throughout the world, with Asia seen as the main growth market. In Paris's upmarket department store La Grande Epicerie, more than 5000 bars have already been sold in less than five weeks, described by the store's head of marketing as "the best success we have in our Christmas selection".
Richard O'Connor, who founded the Edinburgh e-commerce firm Ambergreen, launched Chocolate and Love in 2010.
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He said: "I saw the designs on birthday cards and notebooks at a gift show and thought they would be so great on chocolate, as no-one had done that before.
"What other gift can you give for under £3 which is a bit of fun and has a good enough taste that people would want to receive it again?"
Sold in the UK at Herbie's delicatessen in Edinburgh's Stockbridge, and shortly via Amazon, the ChocStar range is intended as the mid-market complement to Chocolate and Love's award-winning range of six organic fairly traded chocolate bars made from cacao beans from Peru and the Dominican Republic, to which two more flavours will be added next year.
Earlier this year the company took a strategic decision to shift its focus to wholesale rather than direct-to-consumer sales, and to stop selling other third-party brands.
O'Connor said: "It was a big decision, and our initial drop in turnover was quite scary, but it has worked out well. The margin was smaller and the logistics of dealing with someone else's stock were difficult. It takes us a fraction of the time to order in our own product, and there were no guarantees about the future selling for others. Now we are spending time building up our own brands worldwide."
Advised by HSBC, O'Connor expects the two chocolate brands, made in Germany and Switzerland, to be selling in around 20 countries by the end of 2013, with a projected turnover of around £600,000.