Lincolnshire-based experts in high quality chocolate and confectionery production, Hames Chocolates, share how they overcame market challenges during the Covid-19 crisis.

Carol Oldbury, Director of Hames Chocolates explains: ‘Like many businesses, we have faced numerous challenges as a result of Covid-19. During the early stages of the health crisis, 98% of our customers temporarily closed as they are in the food service and hospitality sectors. As a result of this sudden and dramatic change in our customers’ needs, we needed to be agile in our approach and make changes quickly in order to future-proof our business. It is by being adaptable that we have managed to remain stable in the market.

‘One of the first decisions we made was to temporarily close our factory at the beginning of lockdown and we used the time to review the business and invest in our future. This included sourcing new equipment to make our business more efficient, increasing the amount we can produce and opening up new revenue streams. We purchased another chocolate spinner to increase our spinning capacity, allowing us to make more hollow products and cake decorations, such as cake domes.

‘We also invested in the equipment needed to produce chocolate shavings, which can be used by bakers, caterers, restaurants and in hospitality to decorate cakes. The shavings can also be used to make real hot chocolate that can be sold in grocery retailers.

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‘Finally, we added a new moulding line, which thanks to the spiral cooling tunnel increases our volume, adds new dimensions to our capabilities and enables us to be even more innovative with product lines. For example, we can now produce filled chocolate Neapolitans and filled chocolate bars.

‘We also considered how we could adapt existing machinery to expand our offering and found that by updating our sweet wrapping machine, we can now offer twist wrapped truffles in addition to regular chocolate truffles and flow wrapped truffles.

‘On top of expanding our product offering, we also wanted to improve our business efficiencies, so we invested in new lighting and plumbing valves, which in turn save energy and resources.  

‘We were able to reopen our factory again with only essential staff after three weeks – on 16 April and even had some orders to fulfil. We were fully operational again after six weeks and whilst we are still not working to full capacity, we are seeing improvements week on week.

‘As things slowly return to some semblance of normality and I look back on what my recent experiences have taught me, I believe it’s important, where possible, to view any situation as an opportunity as much as a challenge. I also think that there are two key ingredients needed to survive and potentially grow in a challenging market – being strategic and adaptable – as these approaches will enable you to keep ahead of the curve, no matter has fast it changes.’

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