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Durness Prepares For Mountains of Chocolate

14th June 2006

Photograph of Durness Prepares For Mountains of Chocolate

A haven of temptation for chocoholics has opened in the Sutherland village of Durness, where a local resident has launched a luxury chocolate manufacturing business called Cocoa Mountain.

Chocolatier Paul Maden is offering mouth-watering delicacies such as Dark Chocolate truffle with coffee and sweet cinnamon, Whisky and vanilla coffee with bitter cocoa dust (adults only), and imported Turkish delight, dipped in a dark 73% Cuban chocolate.

A regular summer visitor to Balnakiel, Paul conducted considerable customer research and completed a professional chocolatier course with Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver, before setting up the production facility and 'Chocolate Bar' with James Findlay, his next door neighbour.

He explained, "I think enjoyment of quality chocolate sales is increasing as people are becoming aware that it can be good for you, providing you with anti-oxidants and stimulating serotonins that make you feel happy. I know a little chocolate fix in the mid afternoon really gets me going again."

However, behind the delicious taste there are hard figures. Paul was formerly working for the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, with entrepreneurial students at the University of Paisley, and his business acumen has come in useful when compiling a sound financial plan for Cocoa Mountain.

Paul's confidence has been boosted by a Chocolate Manufacturers Association report that sales of speciality chocolates is rising in the UK at over 17 per cent, while Cadbury reports that the average British resident chomps his way through 10kg of chocolate per year.

Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE) assisted Paul to set up Cocoa Mountain with a business start-up grant of 3,600, which is paid in 12 monthly instalments. Business start-up grants provide new businesses with support and financial assistance by providing a regular income over the first 12 months of trading - traditionally the hardest time for a fledgling company. Says Paul "The help and advice from CASE with Cocoa Mountain has been excellent"

"There can be little doubt that chocolate in all its forms remains one of the world's favourite commodities," said Keith Muir, development manager at CASE. "The evidence is clear that there is potentially a massive market for a quality chocolatier."

Working from the open-view Chocolaterie at Balnakiel, Cocoa Mountain is already meeting a brisk trade from visitors and locals who are coming to buy chocolates and call in for hot chocolate, or organic coffee and teas.

In the autumn Paul and James intend to launch into e-commerce and sell products over the Internet to a wide retail customer-base, and have already had a number of requests from customers worldwide for postal deliveries. They will also be producing chocolate truffles for the Achfary Arts and Craft Fair from July.

"We've been really busy since we opened," said Paul, "People have been coming to enjoy cappuccino and chocolate and look out at the view to Cape Wrath and the mountains, or just taking a box on a leisurely walk for a delicious treat"

"A couple from Dorset came in to buy a box of truffles every day of their holiday here and even popped in to buy a box of nine for the journey home!"

You can find out more about Cocoa Mountain from their website


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