Could Banbury be the centre of UK’s artisan chocolate?

Mervi Moyaert of Belflair chocolate shop, Banbury. NNL-150331-155735009
Mervi Moyaert of Belflair chocolate shop, Banbury. NNL-150331-155735009

Brits have always been fond of the sweet stuff especially the sweetest taste of all – chocolate.

Each year, around Easter, 90 million chocolate eggs are sold in the UK.

Barry Callbaut chocolate, Banbury, donation to The Horton Hospital. Kieran Shaw, Chocolate Academy Assistant. NNL-150331-154125009

Barry Callbaut chocolate, Banbury, donation to The Horton Hospital. Kieran Shaw, Chocolate Academy Assistant. NNL-150331-154125009

And with an increase in the popularity of chocolate made by artisan producers, Banbury is one of the few places in the country to be called home by companies creating sweet treats for shoppers and businesses.

Mondelez means coffee in Banbury but the company also embraces Cadbury and all things chocolate over at Bournville, while Barry Callebaut Ltd, which manufactures chocolate and cocoa, has had offices in Banbury since the 1980s. It is a multi-national with its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Callebaut’s Paul Hoff, technical and R&D manager for the UK said the trend was towards buying more artisan chocolate.

He said: “People are more aware of what they are eating and are much more aware of their impact on the environment and sustainability.”

The attraction of Banbury for Callebaut lies in its location. Mr Hoff said the firm’s site on Wildmere Road was near the M40 which made it the best place for business.

Callebaut supplies firms around the country with the chocolate ingredient including Belflair, on Church Lane, which has a shop in Banbury and a factory in Brackley.

The family-owned business is run by Stefaan and Mervi Moyaert.

They have been in the town for 14 years and were known for their specialist chocolates long before the term ‘artisan’ was used.

Mrs Moyaert said: “My customers have been coming for years, which is lovely. I say I have the best customers in town.

“We set up shop in Banbury because it was the closest market town to where we live. I love Banbury as a town and where the shop is, is a pretty part of the town.

“I’d like to think Banbury is the centre of chocolate in England.”

Her husband, Stefaan, has been a chocolatier most of his life and is responsible for production in Brackley.

The firm has won an award for its chocolate, taking second place in the artisan local sweet product of the year category of the Northamptonshire Food Awards for its dark chocolate with chilli.

Mrs Moyaert added although there were not many artisan producers of chocolate, it was a growing field as non-mass produced chocolate was becoming more popular.

She said: “The key element is now we have real choice. There is now a choice between chocolate and confectionery.”