That’s why Scottish chocolatier Gill Lyth has decided to concentrate solely on the commissioning aspect of her business and put the Hello Chocolate! retail brand to rest.
Formerly known as Hello Chocolate!, the close-knit team of chocolatiers that is Stuart & Swan has decided to shift its focus from supplying a range of upmarket delis, farm shops and independent retailers to cater solely for bespoke commissions for the corporate sector.
Based in Dunfermline, the firm had received a number of bespoke commissions and started supplying several 5-star hotels in Fife and Edinburgh with specially designed chocolates. Commissions followed for special award dinners, for Science Festival experiments and even for tie up’s with food experimentalists Jelly & Gin to create chocolate to pair with whisky.
And then came ‘The Walk’, a bespoke collection created and specially packaged for Gleneagles and representative of a walk through the Scottish countryside near the hotel. It was even shortlisted for an award in the Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards 2014 (Retail Confectionery & Snacking Category).
“It’s been a tremendous journey over the past two and a half years,” says Lyth, founder and head chocolatier.
“We are still a relatively young company – but overall we have been extremely pleased with the acclaim we have received as chocolatiers and the many worthwhile connections we have made in the corporate world which have helped us find our niche.
“The shortlisting of our Walk Collection for Gleneagles was fantastic, coming after such a short time in business, and opened up a lot of new doors for us.
“We realised we really enjoyed the whole creative process involved in a commission. ‘The Walk’ demonstrated the type of thorough approach we take.
In “The Walk”, each chocolate encapsulated the surroundings of a day in the Scottish countryside, whether it was the Scottish marmalade for breakfast, the cherries and raspberries picked along the walk, or relaxing by the peaty fire at the end of the long day.
Stuart & Swan is now a “one stop shop” for corporate clients as the business has widened out to include the offer of bespoke graphic design and packaging, all under one roof. “Clients can get exactly what they want,” said Gill, “We can print on the boxes or keep them plain. We are now able to offer different sizes of packaging, rather than just typical six boxed packs or two chocolate packs – our imagination know no limits now.”
On the company’s new name, Gill said: “Swan is my maiden name so I was happy to use that again in re-branding the company. We have a funding partner now in the business who has Stuart as his Christian name and it is also the surname of our new chocolatier, Lesley, who works closely with me. All in all, we really liked the name, it has a good ring to it and reflects partnership, which is what our commissioning process is all about, and the prestige of what we are involved with working with some major names in the hospitality industry. Hello Chocolate! was very much a retail name and is no longer appropriate.”
Gill also explained that although it was important to choose the right type of name for the company’s new direction, she felt that in some situations, Stuart & Swan would be remaining relatively anonymous.
“We won’t be name dropping and are happy to retain client confidentiality if that is what they seek,” said Gill. “Some companies are using our chocolates under their own name – others specify that we present and package them as Stuart & Swan. It very much depends on the circumstances and we can offer that all important flexibility and discretion – at the right price point too.”
Stuart & Swan will use its latest award nomination – again in the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards, taking place at the National Museum in Edinburgh’s Chambers Street on May 27th 2015 – to effectively launch the company to the trade.
“It’s wonderful to be nominated again and as we now have a corporate emphasis we are in the Foodservice Product of the Year category, which is for trade, with our “Jewel Collection,“ said Gill. The Jewel Collection was created for hotels as a turn down box, and for use as a favour at a dinner or event.
“We are keeping everything crossed but it would be amazing to go one better this year and clinch the category – we can’t think of a better way to announce our arrival on the scene as Stuart & Swan than to win with 850 people in attendance. And we have been fortunate enough to secure the commission to supply the chocolates for the tables too.”
Other plans for Stuart & Swan in the immediate future include continuing to grow its team with the right people. As well as its new Chocolatier, Lesley Stewart, Stuart & Swan also has a new packaging and graphic design assistant and a Kitchen Assistant too. Gill’s husband Stan Lyth continues to look after graphic design.
Gill has become involved in the Scottish Chocolatiers network, as Vice Chair. “We have secured funding from “Think Local” interface and Callebaut, a global chocolate brand, and plan to hold at least four events per year to support and encourage artisan chocolatiers in Scotland to grow their businesses,” she said. “We will hold seminars and workshops on business growth and The Chocolate Larder, a map of chocolatiers throughout Scotland produced in conjunction with The List, will be distributed at Visitor Information Centres. It’s very exciting and has huge potential. I am enjoying it as it’s essential to keep in touch with your industry and to network and support each other. For a small close knit team like Stuart & Swan we feel this is very important.”