Holdsworth Chocolates, Bakewell
PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 April 2020
Copyright © 2017 SCRCA
Holdsworth Chocolates in the Peak District has been creating luxury handmade chocolates for over 30 years, using the best quality ingredients from around the world.
Founded by Barbara Holdsworth in 1988, the company is now run by her daughter Genevieve, its creative director, at the Bakewell-based factory where all the chocolates are made. She says, ‘Our location in the heart of the Peak District couldn’t be more perfect for chocolate manufacture – it has such romantic connotations.’
The company is very much a local business as the team of 20 core staff, together with temporary staff recruited for the peak trading period, all live nearby. Genevieve says, ‘We are lucky to have an amazing team of hard-working and loyal staff. Everybody contributes to the success of the business.’
The chocolates are all still largely handmade – all the chocolates are hand-enrobed or hand-finished – although some of the initial processes have been mechanised in order to meet demand. These include automatically cutting truffle centres into squares and piping the cream into chocolate centres.
The chocolates are stocked by John Lewis, Selfridges and Ocado, to name but a few of the many retailers. Here in Derbyshire the chocolates can be found in Chatsworth Farm Shop, which has been selling the chocolates since Holdsworth began, as well as numerous other retail outlets including Denstone Hall Farm Shop, Croots Farm Shop and Thirza & Walter Patisserie in Bakewell. They are also exported all over the world including to Australia, Canada, China, Eastern Europe, Russia and the USA.
As much care and attention is placed on the style and quality of the packaging as the chocolates that sit inside. When Genevieve starts work on a new range she begins, not with the chocolates themselves but with a design-based concept for the packaging. Only after this has been created are the chocolates developed.
Genevieve says, ‘Two years ago we created a design theme for Easter based around traditional nursery rhyme characters. We take elements from this and use it in the design each year to tell a story.’ This year’s Easter range includes a gold speckled milk chocolate Easter egg, a chocolate gift set, a box of mini caramel eggs and a treat bag of Easter bunnies, whilst the whimsically designed packaging features butterflies and rabbits.
Genevieve says, ‘We don’t replace a lot of naturally occurring ingredients with artificial ones. The texture and taste of our chocolates are much more unique and they’re loyal to how the original ganache, truffle and cream flavours would be if you were going to a French chocolatier rather than buying a standard box of chocolates.’
Holdsworth brings out a new range each year and this year will see the launch of its new plant-based range of chocolates in fully recyclable packaging. After the packaging has been designed, work begins on creating the chocolates, which is when Genevieve talks to the production manager about recipes for milk, dark and white chocolates, ensuring that the flavours of each chocolate complement one another whilst taking into consideration the overall look of the product before the all-important tasting tests.
Tastes have changed over the years, as Genevieve explains: ‘Chocolates were much much sweeter in the past. The couverture we use today has a higher cocoa content and we add a lot less sugar. The outer casings of the chocolates are thicker and the centres are smaller. We find people prefer that – it’s interesting how things have changed.’ Genevieve joined the company by default in 1990. She had just completed her A levels and decided to take a year out. She says, ‘I didn’t know what I was going to do and my mother said, “You’re not going to not work – come and work for me!” At the same time, I started a Business and Finance diploma at college, which was incredibly hard – the course was day release and I was working in the factory making chocolates. During those early years of the business, I would often get up at 5am to go to college, then come back to work all night in order to get an urgent order out on time. It was exhausting in those days but we had some wonderfully loyal staff and it was all hands to the pump!’
She moved to London when Harvey Nichols invited Holdsworth Chocolates to have a concession within their store, which Genevieve ran for several years before returning to Derbyshire where she got married, had a family and took over the running of the company when her mother retired. Genevieve says, ‘Sadly mum passed away two years ago so I feel even more strongly about growing the business and making a success of it in her memory.’
Indeed, business is going so well that Holdsworth has almost outgrown its current premises. However, whilst tastes and chocolates may change, for Genevieve – and Holdsworth – Derbyshire will always be home.