It’s not every community that can boast they have a chocolate factory on their doorstep.
If you pop into House of Dorchester at any time of the day you will be greeted by the charismatic Joan and her team in the popular outlet shop.
The factory is nestled in the midst of houses at the bottom of Victor Jackson Square and to the untrained eye it would be hard to know there was such a big commercial enterprise there.
Around the world in chocolate
However, the once small Dorchester based factory has recently expanded after being bought by Charbonnel et Walker three years ago and following this in March this year all production for the world renowned company moved to the Poundbury site.
Charbonnel et Walker continues to make its signature chocolates to the esteemed recipes of Mme Charbonnel alongside world renowned Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles and Milk Sea Salt Caramel Truffles.
House of Dorchester is now stocked all around the world, ranging from the shelves of John Lewis, Waitrose, Selfridges, Liberty and Harrods to Goulds in Dorchester, Olives Et Al in Poundbury, The Fridge in Dorchester and Darts Farm in Devon and as far as Macy’s in the US.
House of Dorchester Commercial Manager Annie Carter said: “We expected business to grow and now we are proud to say we export our chocolates all around the world.
“We’re incredibly delighted with the exciting new chocolates from our products development team, who alongside coming up with beautiful new flavours also make the weird and wonderful giant rainbow chocolate bunnies and giant slabs of chocolate.”
Describing the company’s merger and expansion, Annie said it has really helped to take the products to a world stage.
She said: “I’ve seen lots of changes at the company, and lots of different chocolates, and lots of different customers. So it’s been fun. It’s a lovely place to work and I think we’re very lucky in Dorchester to have this here.”
To mark the historic royal wedding earlier this year of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, House of Dorchester made their own label chocolates for the Royal Palaces, a royal collection for Buckingham Palace and royal wedding slims for department store John Lewis.
The House of Dorchester journey began back in 1963 when Richard and Christine Ungaretti opened the ‘Dorset Maid’ chocolate emporium on High West Street Dorchester.
More than half a century later, the couple’s legacy lives on. Now called House of Dorchester, the company continues to make chocolates to traditional recipes whilst creating innovative new flavours and all the while retaining their Dorchester roots.
House of Dorchester first moved to Poundbury in 1998. On July 7th 1988, HRH The Prince of Wales opened the factory and has continued to visit regularly ever since.
As the business has expanded over the decades, so too have people’s tastes and expectations with regards to chocolate and confectionary. House of Dorchester makes classic chocolates but also new and unusual flavours and textures such as chilli chocolate, Carrot Cake Truffles and sparkling glitter truffles.
Operation manager Mahesh Desai watches over the busy production line where workers still hand finish every single chocolate.
“This chocolate factory is very innovative,” he said. “We’ve got a great team, a great atmosphere. And we’ve got several people working for us from the local area. Everything is done here from start to finish. So from the raw material to the finished product.”
Speaking of the recent growth in the merger and extension, Mahesh added: “With the growth of the business and the merger between Charbonnel et Walker and House of Dorchester, we’ve had to increase our production facilities and put an extension on last year so that we can increase our dispatch area.
“We’ve doubled the staffing levels and these will increase again in peak times such as Christmas and Easter.”
The factory outlet shop is open weekdays and offers a great range of chocolate. It is a very closely guarded secret of the community, who clearly love the team and sneaking in to buy their favourite chocolate.
Shop assistant Joan Hambridge said: “It’s lovely because everybody comes in and says, “Ah! I love the smell.” Everybody loves the smell. They love the smell and they get quite giddy when they’re in here. And of course we have tasters so a lot of them like to sample the chocolates.”