HUNTINGDON-based Hotel Chocolat is offering investors a tasty treat, by issuing chocolate bonds which could fund the creation of up to 250 jobs at the company’s Redwongs Way factory.

HUNTINGDON-based Hotel Chocolat is offering investors a tasty treat, by issuing chocolate bonds which could fund the creation of up to 250 jobs at the company's Redwongs Way factory.

The confectioners hope to raise £5m to invest in four major projects through an innovative investment strategy - instead of receiving an annual payout from the company for their money, members of the company's Chocolate Tasting Club will be invited to invest in return for a dividend paid in boxes of gourmet chocolates.

The money raised will be invested in expanding Hotel Chocolat's main UK manufacturing base, at Hadley Park in Redwongs Way, with the company stating that it believes up to 250 new positions could be created.

As well as expanding the Hadley Park facility, which recently saw the addition of a factory shop, the money raised by the chocolate bonds will be invested in three other projects.

Hotel Chocolat is looking to build an eco factory at its cocoa plantation in St Lucia, open further shops in the UK and continue its expansion abroad. It currently has 42 shops in the UK and two shops in the USA, and earlier this year opened stores in Dubai, Kuwait and Bahrain, all supplied by the Huntingdon factory.

Hotel Chocolat co-founder Angus Thirlwell said: "We have ambitious plans for the future and, when it came to considering the funding of these plans, we decided to think somewhat differently.

"Rather than borrow in the traditional way and pay interest to a big bank, we would much prefer to provide a return to our customers - in chocolate - through a chocolate bond.

"We've been delighted with the positive reaction we have received so far from our members for this unusual approach to development fundraising."

An investment of £2,000 for a three-year bond will earn a dividend of an £18 box of chocolates every two months, equating to a return of around 6.7 per cent. The £4,000 option carries a higher return rate of 7.29 per cent.

The innovative step neatly negotiates the choice between a traditional bond issue, which would usually be used to raise larger sums, and a bank loan with its attendant fees and interest rates.

It also taps directly into a market of investors that the company already knows has faith in it - the members of its Chocolate Tasting Club - thereby sidestepping the need to convince unfamiliar investors of its value.

With over 100,000 members at the last count, Hotel Chocolat is confident of finding enough investors with an appetite for the issue.

The company said that the scheme would only go forward if it received £500,000 of applications by July 12, but that the early response had been encouraging.