Celebrating World Chocolate Day with Colette Brown CA

By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

6 July 2018

Get your taste buds ready for World Chocolate Day on 7 July with an exclusive treat. Colette Brown CA, Head of Finance at Chocolate and Love Ltd, shares tips of the trade and the business behind award-winning flavours.

Whether you prefer dark, milk or white varieties, World Chocolate Day provides an ideal excuse to treat yourself.

But for Colette Brown CA, Head of Finance at Chocolate and Love, every day is dedicated to chocolate.

Colette's career has seen her tackle corporate finance and restructuring in a variety of industries, including energy, utilities and international trade. She joined Chocolate and Love in 2017 and is using her experience in finance, cross-border transactions and sustainable business to help the brand grow.

She shares the highlights of her role and an opportunity to get 10% off some award-winning products to enjoy on World Chocolate Day.

Colette Brown CAWhat do you find attractive about Chocolate and Love Ltd?

Firstly, the name of the company and their product design really grabbed my attention. On investigating further, the ethical nature of the brand as a whole resonated with me.

Every aspect of the business is run as ethically as possible and the company goes to great lengths: minimising shipping to cut down on fuel usage and costs; using paper that is 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified for their wrappers; using bio-degradable silver inner wrappers produced with materials made from sustainably harvested wood; and using FLO-PAK Green packing material.

And then there's the office - or lack of one! Paper-free and cloud-based, the small team works in a ‘virtual office’ environment which is very cost-effective and time-efficient, cutting out the daily commute.

The products themselves also drew me in. Chocolate and Love believe in more cacao and less sugar, using organic ingredients with full traceability. The lowest cocoa content chocolate bar is 55%.

The fact that the company has won so many high prestige awards indicates that the products are right up there - 23 Gold Great Taste awards and two Academy of Chocolate awards in just eight years.

What led you to joining the company?

I began my finance life at a medium-sized accounting practice in Perth after graduating from Dundee University. I completed my ICAS training there and, after eight years in practice, decided to look for a new challenge in the world of industry.

I have held varied Finance Controller and Finance Director roles, latterly spending seven years working within a broad Corporate Finance Role. In early 2017, I decided that I wanted a change and began looking for the right role to tempt me away.

The fact that the company has won so many high prestige awards indicates our chocolate is right up there.

I was contacted by chance regarding Chocolate and Love and meeting the entrepreneurial co-founders left me in no doubt that this was where I wanted to be.

Richard O’Connor, a down-to-earth (chocolate-loving) Scot, and his partner, Birgitte Hovmand, a former lawyer and foodie Dane, are a dynamic and driven duo whom I bought into straight away. I knew I could help make a difference as they are open to change, forward-thinking and hard-working.

Do you have a favourite part of your job?

It's probably working closely with Richard and Birgitte. Decision-making is quick and they delegate and trust with ease once capabilities are proven, enabling us all to make a bigger contribution than is perhaps possible in a larger, more rigidly-structured organisation.

The variation of the workload is also a favourite as it keeps me on my toes and very busy!

How are you preparing for future disruption?

Brexit is obviously something we have debated and taken steps to ensure doesn't impact our customers. We have the benefit of our products being stored in a specialist chocolate warehouse in Germany, so we should continue to have easy global access.

The uncertainty of what Brexit will actually mean for British business is a concern and we are proactively taking steps to ensure any disruptions are kept to a minimum, and that we are in a position to react to any developments as and when they happen.

What else does your role involve?

It is very hands-on. We are a small team with customers spanning 35 countries so my role brings the challenges of multiple currencies, time-zone difficulties and cultural differences in doing business with places like China. No two days are the same and I like it that way.

It goes far beyond just number-crunching and that is what is so motivational and interesting for me.

Another part of my job is working closely with the company’s Head of Operations to ensure we keep costs as tight as possible and helping the co-founders increase volume and attain better margins without compromising on quality or service. Stakeholder liaison is also an important element and, of course, liaison with our banking partners.

It goes far beyond just number-crunching and that is what is so motivational and interesting for me.

As an organic, Fairtrade brand, how is the business affected by climate change and deforestation?

Chocolate and Love liaises closely with partners who have direct access to the cooperatives they source from in Panama, Peru, The Dominican Republic and Madagascar. Knowing that the business and their partners are contributing to the sustainability of farmers through information, education and industry certification speaks to the essence of the brand.

The company supports re-forestation and plants trees through WeForest and has planted 27,000 trees so far.

What is your favourite kind of chocolate?

Before I joined Chocolate and Love, I would have answered this very differently - probably naming a high street brand with a very low cacao and extremely high sugar content. I am now more educated about the merits and taste of quality darker chocolate!

My favourite is probably the Madagascar 70% (one of the company’s seven vegan variants). Cacao from Madagascar is valued worldwide for its unique flavour and natural sweetness, and this really is a delicious dark chocolate without any of the bitterness you might normally associate with dark chocolates.

It is also the chocolate we use in our Pomegranate 70% bar, which has just won an award from Academy of Chocolate.

If this has tempted you to try some of Chocolate and Love’s delicious flavours, the company have just launched their new e-commerce website (UK deliveries only at this time).

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