Chocoholics find a welcome in café society

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The Independent Online

It might be viewed as the official supplier to the nation's sweet tooth, but the chocolate brand Cadbury's has concluded there is more to life than Crunchie and Curly Wurly bars and begun a project to woo the nation's chocolate snobs.

It might be viewed as the official supplier to the nation's sweet tooth, but the chocolate brand Cadbury's has concluded there is more to life than Crunchie and Curly Wurly bars and begun a project to woo the nation's chocolate snobs.

The company plans a chain of upmarket chocolate cafés, to be called Café Cadbury, with fancy truffles rather than chocolate Buttons likely to top the menu.

Traditionalists may scoff, but Cadbury is unabashed. It opened the first Café Cadbury in Bath three weeks ago, andclearly hopes that, if things go well, it will be able to cash in on the success of chains such as Starbucks and Coffee Republic.

A Cadbury's spokesman did not agree that, alongside the coffee competitors, the name might seem a bit old fashioned. He said the company hoped to adapt its brand to "a modern, contemporary, indulgent environment - taking the concept of selling chocolate into the new millennium".

Business in Bath has been "fantastic", he said. If the success continues, Cadbury's plans to open more cafés in towns and cities. Decoration at the chocoholic's paradise is in Bournville purple, the location is choice - over three floors of a listed building - and much of the fare is a cut above the Wispa experience. The company has developed 50 new lines, including little sorbets coated in plain chocolate and ice-cream covered in melted Dairy Milk. The best sellers have been the new range of chocolate drinks.

If the concept succeeds, it will be taken as further proof that Britons are chocolate-addicted. Only the Swiss match British consumption, now at four and a half bars of Dairy Milk per person per week. The rest of the world is way behind.

In Britain, 90 per cent of people buy chocolate at some time during the year. Scots eat most and Londoners least. But, statistics show, women who buy chocolate give half of it away, while men eat what they buy.

Overall, the British chocolate market is worth almost £4bn a year, and Cadbury's is the leading brand. Its Dairy Milk bar is described as a "megabrand" and accounts for more than 5 per cent of all chocolate sold. So it is no surprise the company wants to do a Starbucks. The spokesman acknowledges Cadbury's is alert to "burgeoning café society" in Britain - the coffee bar market is worth £500m.

Others are following the Starbucks route. McDonald's, the fast-food chain, bought up Aroma coffee houses in March, and Nestlé has opened 34 Café Nestlé outlets selling coffee and chocolate drinks.

Tea companies are lagging, however; Tetley said it had no plan to replicate its Gaffers tea house in Manchester, while Typhoo's only effort has been to open a tea bar at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, south-east London.

A small company in the south of England might be more ambitious. Café Cha has opened fashionable tea houses in Brighton and Bristol, selling gourmet estate teas and New Age "power teas" - anything from black tea with blackcurrant to green tea with peach and camomile.

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