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The Velvetiser

WSP Engineering partners with Hotel Chocolat, turning a warehouse into a hot chocolate production facility.


Contract start date
June 2021


Building size
17,500 sqft


Hotel Chocolat is a British chocolatier and cocoa grower. There are over one hundred shops in the United Kingdom and 31 stores in Japan. Hotel Chocolat is the only company in the United Kingdom to grow cocoa on its own farm.

Hotel Chocolat co-founder Angus Thirlwell created the concept of the Velvetiser, an innovative product that enabled their customers to produce luxury hot chocolate in their homes.

In 2018  Simon Wood, Head of UK Manufacturing Projects at Hotel Chocolat, was given the challenge of:

  • Increasing the production capacity of chocolate shavings
  • Moving all production and packaging to an in-house operation.
  • Ensuring the product range was future-fit and ready for automation. 

Simon and his team developed a bespoke method of shaving the chocolate and implemented a packaging solution that was heat resistant, preventing the fragile chocolate flakes from melting. 

This initial project was completed in 2019 and was crucial to delivering a marketing-leading product to Hotel Chocolat’s ever-growing customer base.

Since its release, the Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser and hot chocolate range has gone from strength to strength. For instance, on the social media platform TikTok, the hashtag #velvetiser has reached over 20 million views, and there is even a Velvetiser Enthusiasts group on Facebook.

With this success came the need to further increase hot chocolate production and rethink the entire production process.

A new production process for creating the hot chocolate was designed, moving from the current- just developed method- to the E2E process with incorporation of the best in class manufacturing standards. This new operation enabled Hotel Chocolat to dramatically speed up and simplify production,  whilst maintaining the highest product quality they have become renowned for.

Hotel Chocolat chose WSP Engineering as their project management and engineering partner due to their extensive knowledge and experience in the FMCG sector.

Simon Wood, Head of UK Manufacturing Projects at Hotel Chocolat, said, “What was exceptional was the speed WSP and the HC Team were able to conceive, design, and mobilise to deliver the capability & capacity the project required. All during the global pandemic

Hotel Chocolat Huntingdon Front

The Challenge

Hotel Chocolat commissioned WSP Engineering to design, engineer and build a two-storey food production facility.

This new facility had to increase production, simplify the operation and improve the quality of the final product.

This project required an innovative new product development operation to be designed and implemented in a short time frame, with bespoke machinery needed to fit into a constrained space.

Hotel Chocolat’s previous production facility was constrained in its ability to deliver the growing manufacturing demand driven by exceptional sales levels. The processes were complex and multi-layered, which, as a result, led to time-consuming cleaning procedures and long product turnaround times.

WSP Engineering were responsible for:

  • The end to end management of the entire construction project
  • Engineering an innovative automated production process
  • Supporting Hotel Chocolat with implementing the new production processes and procedures 

Dave Pickup, Director of WSP Engineering, said, “Hotel Chocolat has an industry-leading standard for product quality and food hygiene. The WSP Engineering team has a proven track record of high performance in these areas.”

Sylwia Zmuda, Site Manufacturing Manager at Hotel Chocolat, said, “Through the trusted partnership with WSP we were able to unlock capacity and create new opportunities in our existing business model. This relationship enabled open and challenging conversations which surfaced great ideas, challenges and teamwork leading to this remarkable achievement” 

Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser Team Photo

The Result

This project has seen a significant return on investment for Hotel Chocolat, alongside vast improvements to product quality, food safety and production capacity.

Firstly, the output for the Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser hot chocolate range has increased by 400% since 2016, with surplus space available to replicate the two more production lines.

Manuel Escamilla, Project Manager at WSP Engineering, said, “My involvement in this project was managing the testing, commissioning and handover of the end-of-line packaging solutions. The Hotel Chocolat team were a pleasure to work with. I am proud of how well the new systems have been integrated into the Hotel Chocolat production facility.” 

Secondly, product turnaround time has significantly improved from 72 hours to 12 minutes, an industry-leading standard when producing an end product of such high quality.

Sylwia Zmuda, Site Manufacturing Manager at Hotel Chocolat, said, “This was a group of talented and highly motivated individuals, coming together as a team, laser focussed on our world-class vision to Velvetise the World; there was no other option but to succeed. We were honoured to be part of building this legacy for Hotel Chocolat – one for the record books! ” 

Thirdly, and most importantly, Food Safety has been maintained and taken to the next level, through the complete redesign of the chocolate handling process.  High level standards to food safety were demonstrated through a BRC Food Safety Audit that took place at the production facility whilst construction works were underway, both in 2021 and 2022 where our journey still continues.

Peter Riley, Senior Project Manager for WSP Engineering, said, “I am incredibly proud of the turnaround time we delivered for Hotel Chocolat. A project of this size would typically take 18 to 24 months. However, through the combined efforts of WSP Engineering, our suppliers and Hotel Chocolat, we could deliver this project from start to finish in 12 months.

Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser Sachet

In Summary

The future of this project will see Hotel Chocolat be able to continue to capitalise on the unprecedented growth the company has seen in recent years. 

Simon Wood, Head of UK Manufacturing Projects at Hotel Chocolat, said, “What most pleases me is how the WSP and HC Teams have worked together to create a highly efficient and effective process to deliver the project requirements’

WSP Engineering’s continued commitment to innovation, quality and its people makes them the ideal engineering and project management partner for Hotel Chocolat’s future production ambitions.

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