Bullion Chocolate: Visiting Neepsend’s new chocolate factory
Bullion are Yorkshire’s first ‘bean to bar’ artisan chocolate maker, running an all-day café at Cutlery Works food hall and recently opening a new factory space in Neepsend.
Owner Max Scotford, who launched the business in 2017, told us how the opportunity to move to a space where customers could visit, see how their products were made, taste the different origins, then head back to Cutlery Works for a drink and more sweet treats was simply too good to turn down.
“We are really excited that we now have the chance to add another layer of experiencing our chocolate. Our main selling point is the bean to bar process, how transparent we are as a company and the care we put to doing everything in-house: importing, sorting, roasting and hand-wrapping the bars. It’s great to be able to share that story now, talking our customers through each step we take.”
After graduating from university, Max took a job in sales and marketing at a software company, but while working there he began to make chocolate as a hobby, using a small spice grinder to experiment with different origins and flavour notes. Seeing the rise of the craft beer, spirits and coffee industries sweep the country, he began to see a gap in the market for a craft chocolate company, one which would import the cocoa beans and make their goods from scratch.
Once the vision for Bullion was fully formulated and enough market research completed to confirm its potential, he went down to part-time hours at his job and opened a small unit in Neepsend, just a stones’ throw from where the new factory stands today. “There were a few people who queried whether it was the right decision; I had a good job and leaving it to focus on chocolate might have confused some people,” says Max,“but I knew that it was something I really believed in and would regret if I didn’t take the chance.”
Then it was a case of building up the brand, perfecting their core range, making contacts, encouraging local places to stock their products, and, perhaps most importantly, spreading the word of bean to bar chocolate across the UK. Safe to say, they exceeded expectations: Bullion won a Silver Prize in the Academy Chocolate Awards and added the Leeds branch of Harvey Nichols to their client list.
Cutlery Works was the next big step. The largest food hall in the north of England brought Bullion onboard in 2018, and today they sell everything from brownies to hot chocolate and cocktails at their cosy café-cum-shop space. As well as this, the company focused on expanding their product range via collabs with a variety of makers: coffee liqueurs, beer, gin, candles – all made with a special chocolatey twist.
After being forced to close their shop and pivot to online sales during lockdown, there’s been little slowing down for Bullion since the country’s retail and hospitality sector has reopened. Last month, the company joined 11 other independent Sheffield makers selling their wares in a new Meadowhall store, hoping to inject a bit of local pride and intrigue into a centre dominated by large chain brands.
Now settled into the upgraded factory space and with their Cutlery Works venue back in operation, Max is looking forward to getting back into a customer-facing environment. “It’s been a mad year for everyone, but we’re really happy to be open again for customers at the café. The factory tours are starting this month and it already feels like the year’s racing by! It’ll be great to get people in here and give them the full Bullion experience.”
You can book a Bullion factory tour and browse their full range at bullionchocolate.com