Why Hotel Chocolat is nuts

For a champion of real chocolate, it lets a significant percentage of chocolate lovers down with five simple words which adorn the packaging of all its products:


Yep, that's all its products - even those that don't contain nuts.

Hotel Chocolat isn't alone in commiting this customer service crime to nut allergy suffering chocoholics, of course.

'MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF NUTS' has become the stock response from food producers since they were legally forced to label ingredients. It helps nobody and the legislation might as well not exist.

Us Brits spend £72-a-head and £4.3bn in total to chomp our way through 605,000 tonnes of chocolate every year.

While the likes of Nestle, Cadbury's, Mars spend billions a year on campaigns appealing to our sweet teeth and grumbling bellies, the independents scramble to differentiate themselves on the quality and ethics of their ingredients. It's clearly a fiercely competitive industry.

Why then are so many missing such an obvious trick and killer USP?

After all, one in every 100 people in the UK suffers from a nut allergy. I've seen business plans based on capturing significantly smaller markets. One per cent of £4.3bn isn't too shabby, is it?

Maybe it's harder and costlier to impose strict processing conditions and riskier to ignore the legal eagles' warnings. But since when did developing a true consumer champion brand involve taking the easy route?

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