Who are we?
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. By the way, we are Chococo, The Purbeck Chocolate Co and the word Chococo came from us playing around with the 'Choco' of chocolate and 'Co' of company - put the 2 together and you spell a word, Chococo!
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!) .
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.
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 chocolate cafe next door to the shop in 2009 when that unit became available. We got very good at knocking holes in walls to expand!
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...that was a busy few months!
2019 saw the launch of our latest exciting adventure - Chococo Gelato! We make our own gelato in small batches at our chocolate kitchen in Wareham & deliver them to our Chocolate Houses in our freezer van, so all our customers are able to enjoy our unique award-winning fine flavours in cool ice cream form. So far we have created a range of core flavours with regular roll out of limited edition flavours to keep our gelato range as exciting & fresh as our range of chocolates. We were delighted that 2 of our flavours also won Great Taste Awards in 2020 - our Madagascar 70% dark chocolate gelato (which also happens to be vegan-friendly) won a coveted 2 Star with judges describing it as 'chocolate heaven" and our Orange Odyssey (based on our Orange Odyssey chocolate of milk chocolate, hazelnut praline & orange) won a 1 Star Gold .
2020 was a challenging year as we all coped with the pandemic and the impact it had on our business. We made the best of it though and offered a local delivery service to our Swanage customers as well as expanding our online services. We also finalised making 100% of our packaging plastic-free...something that we had been working on for several years.
We also took delivery of the first 10 tonnes of our new signature single estate dark chocolate produced exclusively for us by our Direct Trade partners Martinetti Cocoa in Ecuador. This delicious chocolate is crafted with heritage Arriba Nacional cocoa beans grown on a single estate, hacienda Zoilita in the Los Rios province. It was a truly exciting moment to unload the container at our new HQ which had been loaded 6 weeks earlier by the Martinetti team in Quevedo - we love that direct traceability from pod to Chococo!
We have also been winning more awards for both chocolates and our single origin hot chocolate flakes - our signature 72% Ecuador dark chocolate flakes scooped two accolades winning Silver in both the 2022 World Drinking Chocolate Competition (yes really!) run by the international Chocolate Awards and also Silver in the 2022 Academy of Chocolate Awards.