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Hello

Our Story

Who are we?

claire & Andy at launch of Chococo in 2002  Claire & Andy Burnet in 2008  Claire & Andy Burnet of Chococo collect the Investing in Dorset Award

Set up by husband & wife team Andy & Claire Burnet, we are proud to have been making fine fresh handmade chocolates since December 2002 on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. We believe that we were one of the first, if not the first UK artisan chocolatier, to pioneer making truly fresh chocolates, using locally sourced seasonal ingredients, including local fresh cream, blended with fine origin chocolate and no additives or preservatives.

In our former lives, we had both worked for large companies in marketing and finance roles in London, so setting up Chococo was a complete change of direction for us both and we made the leap because of Claire's love of fine quality chocolate (thanks in part to Claire's parents living on the continent in the late 1980s),

Claire's passion for flavour (instilled by her mother's love of cooking with unusual ingredients) & making pure fresh food with locally sourced ingredients and Purbeck, this beautiful part of Dorset. Andy's family was from Swanage & we actually got married in the town back in 1999, so it was always meant to be. We also wanted to bring up our family here and when we opened, our daughter Lily was only just 2 years old. Max came along in 2005 (& that made life even more complex!).   

Claire with Lily age just 2 at launch of Chococo in December 2002             Claire & lily (now aged 17) in December 2017
Claire & Lily (age 2) in Dec 2002                         Lily with Claire 15 years later!

We started off in a little unit in a backstreet in Swanage. it had been a hairdressers for years and when we got the keys, we realised that the previous owner had even left all the 1960s hairdressing furniture!

We turned the ground floor into our tiny chocolate kitchen with a viewing window so that customers could watch us in action making all our chocolates by hand. We were determined to make all our chocolates ourselves and show our customers that we are real people, making real chocolates in a real place and that determination to "keep it real" is still the same for us today. 

So given our focus on letting customers watch us making, we had to put the shop upstairs (how bonkers was that). We used our dining room table to display our chocolates (as we had spent all our funds on buying the unit & on chocolate making kit) and Claire's sister painted the giant map of the world (to show where we sourced our ingredients from) on the wall.

You can see us in our shop just before we opened back in 2002 in the left hand photo at the top of this page. We were only open a few afternoons a week initially but we quickly learnt that we had to change that & start to employ folk to help us.

                                                             
                                                  Our 1st kitchen with viewing window            Andy hand-tempering on a marble slab

Over the years we managed to acquire more units in our alley to create a packing room next to the upstairs shop & then create a bigger kitchen on the other side of the alley in 2005 which enabled us to move the shop downstairs. We then opened an equally tiny cafe next door to the shop in 2009 when that unit became available. We got very good at knocking holes in walls to expand!

                                     
                     Our 2nd kitchen in 2005                           Inside our 2nd kitchen                    Our Swanage Chocolate House today

However, we rapidly ran out of making, packing & storage space, so since 2010 we have been making our chocolates in-house at a larger unit in Wareham, 10 miles up the road from Swanage. This larger unit has enabled us to expand but our Swanage kitchen is still very much in use, as it is now our chocolate workshop space and bakery for our chocolate houses. By the way we call them Chocolate Houses as each contains both a shop & a cafe, so is a space to experience & delight in chocolate in all its forms. 2011 was fun as we published the Chococo Chocolate Cookbook with Ryland Peters & Small and were tickled pink that it was not only published in the UK but also in the USA & Denmark!

We opened our Winchester Chocolate House in 2013, our Exeter Chocolate House in 2016, expanded our Swanage cafe into the next door unit in early 2018 (yes, we knocked another wall down!) & then immediately afterwards opened in Horsham in April 2018...so the roller coaster continues to roll at high speed!

                      
               Winchester                                                  Exeter                                                           Horsham

We care very much about 3 core principles every day at Chococo

People

We are also proud of being ethical chocolate makers as, just as we care about the taste of our finished chocolates, we also care about the bigger picture - about the provenance of our ingredients, whether local or global, and about the people who produce them. We are proud to work with a variety of fine origin chocolates which are known as Raisetrade chocolate as they are produced in their country of origin from tree to chocolate thereby adding more value to the local economy than exporting dried beans. 

Locally, we employ a wonderful team of local people both at our HQ in Wareham and at each of our Chocolate Houses. It was important for us back in 2010, when we had outgrown our Swanage kitchen & packing space, that we found a larger unit that was close enough to keep all our existing staff & local suppliers and we were very proud that we managed to do that with our unit in Wareham.

We are very proud to be a Purbeck food business, working with other local & regional food producers and being part of the Dorset Food & Drink scene. Working with both local food & drink producers and local companies for our design, printing & lots of other elements of our business, is something we have done since we set up Chococo back in 2002 - it is part of our DNA and will continue to do so into the future. In fact, our passion for working with local producers was recognised by the Dorset business community when we won the first "Investing in Dorset" award at the annual Dorset Business Awards in 2016 (that's us in our finery collecting that award in the right hand photo at the top of the page).

Product

Making truly fresh products with real ingredients & no weird & wonderful additives or preservatives has been core to our ethos since day 1 and always will be. We believe in making chocolates which will delight and as a national food journalist once said "their purity makes the flavour sing". 

Working with local food & drink producers has been one of the joys since we launched as they are as passionate about their cows, bees, cheeses, vodka stills, coffee roasters and hedgerows as we are about our chocolates, so that together we can produce truly unique chocolates that are a true reflection of what's best about Dorset and the South West!

Our love of working with local suppliers for our chocolates has also extended into each of our Chocolate Houses where we work with local coffee roasters, tea merchants, dairy suppliers & bakers for many elements of our cafe experiences.

We also passionately believe that you can be a chocoholic without being a sugarholic and so we have always worked with high cocoa chocolate (our house milk chocolates have always contained more than 40% cocoa since 2002) & are always interested in offering our customers new low sugar chocolates in both milk & dark chocolate to expand their taste experiences. 

Our passion for keeping it real and making truly fresh chocolates that we are truly proud of has been reflected in the number of both national & international fine food & chocolate awards that we have won to date - we are at 82 so far (we probably should stop counting soon, but we hope that it shows that you dont have to take our word for it, our chocolates are recognised as being amongst the best by independent experts!).

Planet

Ever since 2002, we have cared about the environment too. Starting the business a few years after sailing around the world & then becoming a mum, I (Claire) feel that we have a duty to look after our planet as much as we can & leave as light a footprint as possible. As both of us are sailors, we are very aware of what is happening to our oceans as they become increasingly polluted by plastic. I was very upset to hear that microplastics were found deep in the Southern Ocean in the latest Volvo Ocean race, a part of the world that was pristine when I was so privileged to sail there over 20 years ago. 

Since launch, our selection boxes have always had cardboard grids inside to hold each chocolate, have never had plastic vac forms & they never will have! We have always only ever offered paper carrier bags & are currently moving as many of our plastic bags as possible into fully compostable woodpulp bags. We are also delighted to now be able to source rigid plastic packaging that is made of 70% recycled plastic material & importantly is recyclable again.

We like the idea of using recycled plastics again & again, that feels more circular to us than using virgin plastic material. The boxes for our new Christmas trees are made of this recycled plastic & as we re-order any rigid plastic packaging, it will be in this same more environmentally friendly material. We also offer paper straws in our cafes, fully compostable takeaway cups, wooden spoons for ice creams & discounts for any customers who request a takeaway drink with a reusable cup.

Where can you buy our Chocolates?

You can buy our fresh chocolates direct from us at our original Chocolate House in Swanage, our 2nd on the High Street in Winchester, our 3rd on Gandy St in Exeter, our 4th on Carfax in Horsham or via our nationwide mail order service.

You also can find a selection of our seasonal ranges in premium retailers, including Liberty, Harvey Nichols & Wholefoods Market plus independent food shops around the UK. We also offer a Corporate gifts service and we also run a number of different Chocolate Experiences, including parties & tastings, in each of our Chocolate Houses.

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