Chocolate Challenges in a Changing World
September 14, 2022
In all parts of the world, it is a time of tremendous change and uncertainty, with fresh waves of challenge giving rise to new opportunities to develop capacities such as flexibility, resourcefulness, selflessness and creative thinking. We’ve been doing our fair share of those recently, so it seems appropriate to write about how the Highland Chocolatier is learning how to navigate the challenges of Brexit, Covid and a European chocolate shortage.
We are a small, family business employing around 22 local people in Highland Perthshire. Many of our team members are international, including one of our founding directors. Living in a rural area it is always challenging to find staff to cope with the high season footfall and then support those staff numbers through the relatively quiet low season. The loss of international staff through Brexit and hospitality staff shortages due to Covid have resulted in job applications drying up. This leaves us understaffed this peak season and heading into the busy Christmas period. Our team has performed heroically throughout this time. Being short-staffed is an ongoing challenge across the UK hospitality sector and we are grateful to our customers who have met us with understanding and compassion.
We’ve been weathering the anxiety and extra work brought by Brexit and Covid as wisely as we can and the current economic unpredictability is an additional problem to solve. The rising cost of ingredients, packaging, labour, transport and utilities, sometimes going up by double digit figures multiple times across only a few months is unprecedented. Although a few customers have begun to raise an eyebrow at our single digit price increases, we have yet to pass most of these increased costs on. A sure sign that the pinch is already being felt elsewhere. Ultimately, our prices will have to reflect the true costs we have to work with.
In recent months, a failing at a major chocolate processing plant in Belgium means thousands of tonnes of shortage across Europe, which will impact us into 2023. Could there be anything worse than a continent-wide chocolate shortage?! This has meant that Iain has spent hundreds of hours procuring the necessary quality and quantity of chocolate that we’ll need to get through Christmas. Being a small business, storage space is very limited and in order to hold enough packaging and chocolate, every nook and cranny is choc-full of supplies!
One benefit of these successive challenges has been the growing understanding that all people and nations are interconnected, and that the wellbeing of humanity and the environment is not mutually exclusive. Success to this point has required nuanced thinking relevant to our area of the world, our business sector, our financial and human resources and the continued support of our loyal customers. We look forward to the coming months resolved to keep producing world-class chocolates and keeping spirits up!
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