Tuesday, 20 March 2012

New Product Development for Hotel Chocolat

A few of you may have heard me banging on about Hotel Chocolat recently. Well this is what I've been up to...

At uni, we've been doing a New Product Development (NPD) module, and every year students are set a brief and get the chance to develop a new product for a company. This year, we got Hotel Chocolat. 

The brief was to extend their Spotlight On range. We split up into groups and worked together to develop a theme - ours being speciality teas. 

We conducted sensory evaluation on an initial eleven tea flavours, before we decided to go forward with Chai, Lady Grey, and Lapsang Souchong. The latter was the tea that I worked with.

Through the development process, my final product was a milk chocolate ganache infused with Lapsang Souchong in a milk chocolate shell. Lapsang Souchong is renowned for being matched with dark chocolate, so it was a little surprise that the sensory evaluation found that it wasn't the best option.

A few weeks ago, there were group marketing presentations and two of Hotel Chocolat's development team had come to watch. There was a lot of effort that had gone into preparing a ten minute presentation. We each had a little display that used to show off our chocolates, and a PowerPoint presentation (that we'd pleasingly figured out how to incorporate music in to). Our initial ideas for the presentation were a bit extravagant, and at one point we were looking into using dry ice to add some theatre.

One of my favourite parts of this module was to design the packaging. We each took our own photos, then I edited them. Looking at other packaging by Hotel Chocolat, there is a set template that they use: always looking down on the chocolate and images that represent the flavours. This was a bit tricky for me because the flavour is predominantly smoky. In the end I settled on an image of red/brown smoke that represented not only the smoky flavour, but also the warmth of the flavour.
The least fun part was hand decorating enough chocolates so that I had enough usable ones.

After the marketing presentations, Hotel Chocolat chose six of the chocolates to consider for further development by their own team. Mine was among them. 

As a little prize, the six of us were given a big Mississippi Mud Pie slab. 

Since then, Hotel Chocolat have been back in touch and have said that all six chocolates will be developed over the next year. They also said that two chocolates, in particular, stood out and will be developed first. One of which is mine.

If all goes to plan, the chocolate will go into the Tasting Club and, if it's liked, will go into the Spotlight On range. But that's a long way off yet.

My current project is to develop a jelly, for The Liverpool Cheese Company, to accompany cheese. Is a bit of a slow process because of what's involved but it's been really interesting. The problem I have at the moment is getting the jelly to set to the right consistency and not having so much sugar in there that it's too sweet.

These two books, coupled with a day working at Reedy's Naturally, has really helped me to understand the processes involved and how pectin works.

Though sometimes the temperatures are a little too precise for me. Anyone know how far about sea level I am?

And, finally, hope all you mums had a good Mothers Day. I baked scones with Billy for my mum.


  1. Wow what cool stuff to be working on at Uni! What are you studying then?

    1. Home Economics, not long until I finish now.