Chocoholics went nuts for nuts this Christmas and avoided novelty chocolates, according to the boss of Hotel Chocolat.
Hazelnuts, pistachios, peanut butter and pecan-based chocolates were hugely popular over the festive period, with customers also looking to trade up to bigger boxes of chocolates as families celebrated.
Angus Thirlwell, the retailer’s chief executive, told the PA news agency: “We’ve got a peanut butter drinking chocolate that we launched during the pandemic and it’s been a spectacular success for us. I think the nuts are definitely on the rise.”
He added: “We’ve just launched a maple and pecan hot chocolate that’s similarly caught everyone’s imagination, and then we’ve got a raspberry and pistachio chocolate, which is a chocolate cup filled with pistachio praline, and then filled with a raspberry chocolate on top.
“You don’t normally see raspberry and pistachio together but it really works.
“People are looking for true flavours. We’re seeing that there’s a lot of interest in things not strained towards novelty.
“I think that’s due to a lot of people rebasing their outlook and values because of the pandemic and different things are more important to us now.”
Mr Thirlwell’s comments come as the company revealed sales jumped 37% in the 13 weeks to December 26 compared with a year ago, including a 38% rise in the UK.
The company saw a shift from store to online sales as the Omicron Covid-19 variant spread throughout the country in December but sales held up strongly, he added.
The boss said: “It was still a tricky Christmas. There were new Covid variants, there was the pingdemic, there were forklift truck driver shortages, but we managed to dance our way through that.”
The company started training its own forklift truck drivers in-house and drafted in staff from different sites to fill shortfalls.
A handful of stores needed to close due to staff illness but these were only temporary.
In its overseas businesses, Hotel Chocolat saw sales in the US rise 128% and in Japan by 131% in the period.
Mr Thirlwell said the company would continue to grow its presence in those countries and had no plans to expand into new territories this year.