HOTEL Chocolat s strong sales figures and ambitious global expansion plans could mean the creation of more jobs in Huntingdonshire. The company, which employs up to 500 people seasonally at its factory in Redwongs Way, Huntingdon, recently announced a 14

HOTEL Chocolat's strong sales figures and ambitious global expansion plans could mean the creation of more jobs in Huntingdonshire.

The company, which employs up to 500 people seasonally at its factory in Redwongs Way, Huntingdon, recently announced a 14 per cent increase in sales for the second half of 2009. It also revealed its intentions to open stores in the Middle East, which would be supplied directly from the Huntingdon factory.

Co-founder Angus Thirlwell told The Hunts Post that the prosperity of the business as a whole was likely to filter down to Huntingdon.

"Any growth in sales figures for Hotel Chocolat has got to be good news for the people of Huntingdon.

"It's our main manufacturing base, and all our finished products come through the factory, which are then shipped to our stores across the world," he said.

As well as supplying Hotel Chocolat's 42 stores in the UK, chocolates made in Huntingdon are also sold in Germany and the US, and from next month will be stocked in the chain's new stores in Kuwait, Bahrain and Dubai.

Mr Thirlwell added: "We enjoy being in Huntingdon, and since we arrived here only four years ago we have managed to set up a thriving business. It's an ideal location, and we see it growing."

Hotel Chocolat has committed heavily to the factory as it steps up its plans to establish stores around the world: in the past 12 months more than £2m has been invested in capital equipment, to enable production of a wider range of products.

"The investments will enable us to expand the range of chocolates, which will lead to more job creation at the factory.

"It's also going to benefit the wider area, as we work closely with local suppliers in Huntingdon, for example Charpak and Solo, so the effects will be wider. It's an exciting stage for the business," said Mr Thirlwell.

He said that part of Hotel Chocolat's expansion plans was to capitalise upon the interest in British chocolate following the Kraft takeover of Cadbury's. The company is currently setting up a German version of its Tasting Club, where members are sent samples of new chocolate creations every month, and was looking at the possibility of launching in Sweden. Both ventures will be supplied from the Huntingdon factory.

Mr Thirlwell added: "What we are doing in this country is unique. Our brand is driven by creativity - we are not trying to produce Belgian or French chocolate, or to copy anyone else.

"Cadbury's had that creativity in the early days, and since then no-one has really picked up the baton. We think we are well-placed to build on the overseas markets and invent a new way of British chocolate.