Hotel Chocolat raises £3.7m from tasty bond

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The Independent Online

Hotel Chocolat, the upmarket chocolatier, has raised £3.7m from an innovative "chocolate bond" to grow the business, although it had wanted to deliver £5m.

The retailer, which has 40 shops in the UK, offered the three-year bond – where the return is paid in deliveries of chocolate over the period – to the 100,000 members of its tasting club in May. Hotel Chocolat will invest the proceeds in operations, including expanding its chocolate factory in Cambridgeshire and adding 30 shops over the next three years, creating 400 new jobs.

Angus Thirlwell, the co-founder of Hotel Chocolat, said: "The idea for this chocolate bond was prompted by our customers asking how they could get more involved with the company.

"We found a way of inviting them to invest in our development plans in exchange for a return paid in chocolate. And we have been bowled over by their response. We are now in a strong position to grow the business further using funds provided directly from our customers."

Bondholders can redeem the chocolate bonds in full after three years and they will receive their first delivery of a chocolate tasting box next month.

Hotel Chocolat will also use the £3.7m to build an eco chocolate factory at its Caribbean cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia, as well as increasing its stores and tasting club overseas.

The retailer opened its first two stores overseas in Boston, Massachusetts, last October and launched in Bahrain, Dubai and Kuwait in the first quarter of 2010.