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Mars acquires Hotel Chocolat for overseas expansion

British cocoa grower and chocolate brand Hotel Chocolat has been acquired by confectionary giant Mars for £534m, as it looks to grow its international presence.

Hotel Chocolat is mostly based in the UK, where it has 124 stores and an online offering. It believes the “brand resonates with consumers overseas”, but has faced operational supply chain challenges which “have held us back”.

Earlier this year, it announced a joint venture in Japan with Tokyo’s Eat Creator Corporation to set up 21 Hotel Chocolat shops after a previous deal fell apart.

It had attempted a collaboration with Chris Horobin, the former boss of QVC Japan, in a bid to open stores in the country. However, that deal ended and resulted in Hotel Chocolat writing off nearly £22m.

While in the US, it was forced to close five stores choosing instead to focus on ecommerce sales and its Velvetiser hot chocolate-maker.

Angus Thirlwell, chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, said: “By partnering with Mars, we can grow our international presence much more quickly using their skills, expertise and capabilities.”

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year.

Andrew Clarke, global president of Mars Snacking, added: “We have long admired the fantastic business the Hotel Chocolat team have created. Hotel Chocolat is a differentiated and much-loved brand, with an impressive product offering and a deep commitment to its values of originality, authenticity and ethical trading.

“The Mars and Hotel Chocolat businesses are highly complementary, and during the course of our discussions with Hotel Chocolat’s leadership it has also become clear that there is a very strong cultural fit – with purpose at the heart of both organisations, and a shared passion for quality and sustainability.

“Mars has a long and proud history in the UK, and today’s announcement further strengthens our commitment to this important market by bringing an exciting brand into our portfolio and deepening our relationship with consumers.”

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