Five years ago, Andrew Whiting went out and bought as many different packs of chocolate brazils as he could find. High end names, supermarket own-brands, the works. Then he got some people together for a blind taste test.

To Andrew’s satisfaction, one brand came out top for taste. Beech’s Chocolates. Which was fortunate, because that is the company Andrew runs with son and Managing Director, Peter, Whiting. But if his chocolate brazils were the best on the market, why wasn’t the brand at the top of the tree?

So we looked at the packaging, and the price points, and where they were being sold, and overhauled everything. And now, Beech’s Chocolates are where they belong, at the top end of the market, with sales and branding now on equal footing with the taste.

Beech’s Chocolates was established in Preston, Lancashire, a century ago, and today it is still family-owned and operating out of the same site it was established in. While they of course haven’t got anyone with the company who was there in 1920, they’re not far off! Some staff members have been there for decades, and their longest serving 20 workers have a combined experience of more than 600 years!

Loyalty is a watchword for the company — both staff and consumer. They work hard to retain their workforce and are working doubly hard to put their brand out there as the go-to chocolate label in the luxury market.
“It was purely our packaging and price that was holding us back, so I changed all those things,” says Andrew. “We took our new branding to trade shows, then we got a TV show with the BBC making two films about us, and then onto the QVC shopping channel.

“We’ve taken the business from a customer base in the UK to growing export markets around the world.

“So, the top team has completely transformed the company in the last few years, and that saved a lot of jobs that would have gone if we hadn’t done this.”

As well as giving their products a cosmetic make-over, Beech’s upgraded their production lines and recipes. In recent years they have innovated to add new lines such as their award-winning truffles, and upgraded the chocolate to Fairtrade Cocoa, with up to 40% cocoa solids.

And the innovation continues, even through difficult times. Andrew says, “Last year during the pandemic we finalised our new award-winning Jenny Wren Fabulous Fondants, after acquiring the company the year before. Jenny Wren products are now made by ourselves at the Beech’s factory in Preston rather than sourced from the EU
Regarding the pandemic, Beech’s management under Peter Whiting moved swiftly to control the situation and make the working environment safe for their staff, and their careful control meant they had minimal disruption to the work.

And with Brexit now implemented, Beech’s has actually found that has worked to their advantage.
Andrew says, “It is now more difficult to obtain products from the EU And we’re already seeing a rush of new customers wanting to switch to a UK manufacturer for their chocolates and goodies.
“Therefore we’re there so well placed to be able to choose who we work with going forward, as we are one of only a few high quality chocolatiers who continue to thrive in the UK.”

And beyond these shores as well, with plans for global expansion being put back on the agenda for after the pandemic. “We export to the Far East and USA and we hope soon the virus will be under control in these areas to allow us to continue to push the exports,” says Andrew. “We were doing really well before the pandemic so hopefully from 2022 we can continue to grow these and other markets.

“We’re all hopeful that the business will return to normal after Coronavirus been brought under control worldwide. Thankfully and as a result of the correct action by our senior management team we’ve managed to sustain the business through the pandemic. After 100 years of perfection we were not going to give up without a fight and thankfully we’ve come through one of the worst periods of life in the UK with a business that is set to do extremely well in the future. Watch out for our new products everywhere.”