Data: The start-up enabler

When you are thinking of entering the chocolate business, bearing the name Cadbury is hardly a handicap. But when James Cadbury – the great-great-great-grandson of the founder of the brand, John Cadbury – decided to create his own version of what was once the family business, he knew the traditional high-investment, high-risk way wouldn’t work for him.

James Cadbury – using data to sell upmarket chocolate with personalisation and customisation
James Cadbury – using data to sell upmarket chocolate with personalisation and customisation

John Cadbury took years to develop a market for his cocoa-based products, starting from a small shop in Birmingham in 1824, then a factory in 1831.

It wasn’t until his son bought an innovative new bean press from the Netherlands in 1866 that the business had the capacity to expand at scale.

The cycle from start-up to scale-up was 35-years long. James Cadbury doesn’t have a factory, he doesn’t own a Dutch bean press and he doesn’t have 35 years to build a business. He wants it now. And this is what data, and the technologies that deliver it, have given him.

His business, Love Cocoa, delivers premium chocolate products through your letterbox. Think Raspberry Champagne, Pink Gin or Salted Caramel Truffles; or Gin and Tonic chocolate bars – even Avocado chocolate.

You can also buy them at John Lewis, Selfridges and Harrods, and many other retail outlets. Yet not a single shipment of goods inwards or outwards passes through James’s office in London.

With a very distinct nod to the ethical foundations of his Quaker forebears’ business, he sources all the ingredients ethically, has them delivered to a white-label manufacturer in Northamptonshire, who makes them to an agreed recipe and quality and also handles all the packaging and delivery.

All James sees is profit, 10% of which he donates to the Rainforest Foundation charity.

“Our business model when we started was to be exclusively online,” he says. “Over time, we’ve used the online side of the business to test new products and get customer feedback, and really try to build up a direct consumer base, which allows us to get a good profile of who’s buying, and what they’re buying, and when, and for what occasions they’re buying.

Love Cocoa - James Cadbury – using data to sell upmarket chocolate with personalisation and customisation“We then use that data when pitching to larger retailers like John Lewis, who want some reassurance. It really seems to work.”

Very Thortful

Love Cocoa has also teamed up with online gift and card company Thortful, which sends customer-tailored cards and presents such as chocolate bars through the post. It is a model James is looking at with interest.

“Customers increasingly want personalisation and more customisation, and the likes of Thortful are doing really well at it. We’re now developing different offerings on our own website to allow customers to do more customisation themselves.”

Where James wants to see more digital innovation is in the supply chain links between him and his off-site manufacturer. “I would say the biggest difficulty is stock control. We need just a bit more visibility around that.

“He’s implementing a new system over the course of this year that will give us a lot more visibility, through automated reports, in terms of knowing what to order and when. It will also be a great help in terms of forecasting, with all the previous data there to guide us.

“Once he hooks up to the new system then I think it’s going to make his life a lot easier, managing all his different customers, and it will also make our life easier too.”

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This article first appeared in the March issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.