The Producers: Montezuma's
PUBLISHED: 00:16 03 March 2011 | UPDATED: 18:58 20 February 2013
Helen and Simon Pattinson gave up the law for the lure of chocolate after visiting a cocoa plantation. Now they produce their delicious confection at a base in West Sussex. Kate Eastman went to meet them
When Montezumas husband-and-wife founders Helen and Simon Pattinson left lives as city lawyers, they never imagined that they would have founded one of the UKs most talked about chocolate companies.
Having become totally disillusioned with London, law and all the trappings of a money-dominated life, we resigned from our jobs, sold our house in Putney, put all our possessions into storage and left for South America virtually on the next plane, explains Helen.
When we reached Venezuela a couple of months later, we accidentally ended up staying on a cocoa plantation and we both became fascinated at the complexity of cultivating quality cocoa. We experienced cocoa being grown, harvested and processed into cocoa liquor and soon realised that there was a lot more to chocolate than at first meets the eye.
Almost a year to the day that Helen and Simon returned from their travels, they founded Montezumas in 2000 with one little chocolate machine and one shop in Brighton.
Having started the business with my husband, Simon, we have learnt every role in the business along the way. Now we have around 50 permanent staff so our roles have changed enormously. Currently, I try to focus much more on strategy and planning for the future, explains Helen.
Montezuma's currently make around 200 different products including truffles, bars, novelties, drinking chocolate and various gifts. We hold ourselves out as being Britains most innovative chocolate company and have a commitment to change 25 per cent of the product range every year, describes Helen. It keeps customers interested and excited about the new additions.We also launched Cakeworks last year and now produce a range of chocolate celebration and wedding cakes, which have been really well received.
Montezumas currently produces approximately 400 tonnes of chocolate per year, which makes four million bars! Our best selling products tend to be dark chocolate, high cocoa percentage bars such as the organic Very Dark chocolate, a smooth and rich dark chocolate made with cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic. We won an award for this bar in our first year in business and it continues to be in our top three sellers, describes Helen.
Other popular favourites include Montezumas Revenge, a challenging dark chocolate truffle with chilli, Tequila and Lime and Milk Chocolate with Geranium Dainty Dollops.
In order to make a bar, the chocolate has to be melted and then tempered which is the process of heating and cooling at very specific temperatures and times in order to reach a workable form, then blended. Our bars are now made by a machine which deposits the liquid chocolate into a mould and then cools them over 20 minutes. They are then de-moulded and taken to a packing area where they are flow-wrapped and packed into cartons and date stamped, by hand. Its a lengthy process but the bars are one of the simplest products! explains Helen.
Currently Montezumas have five stores, an online business and a trade sales business which sells chocolate to other retailers such as Waitrose and more than 2,000 independent stockists in the UK and overseas.There are other exciting plans in the pipeline including chocolate parties, monthly chocolate club and a chocolate road show where we plan to reach 250,000 new customers during 2011 in a dedicated Montezumas mobile shop, describes Helen. We have recently invested in expanding our factory and new machinery in order to cope with the sales growth.We plan to continue to expand worldwide but our hearts will always be in Sussex!
In Sussex Montezumas products are available in their Chichester and Brighton stores as well as all branches of Waitrose.They also have local stockists including Cowdray Farm Shop, Goodwood Farm Shop, Bairds Farm Shop, Coco Caf, Petworth and other delicatessens and farm shops.
Other Sussex chocolate producers include:
Organic chocolate producer Cocoa Loco, The Chocolate Barn, Hill House Farm, West Grinstead, West Sussex, RH13 8LG. W: www.cocoaloco.co.uk T: 01403 865687 or email:Sarah@cocoaloco.co.uk