Business Done Properly
A message from our founders…
A message from our founders…
When we had our lightbulb moment for a modern, quirky chocolate business almost exactly 20 years ago, whilst still deep in the heart of South America, we had already worked out the ideals with which we would run a business; should we ever be privileged enough to do so.
Those ideals were simply an extension of our personal values. We had both worked in many businesses where we felt the focus had been too much, or solely, on profit and not enough on how the business looked after its customers, suppliers, people, the environment or anyone else it came into contact with. It seemed obvious to us that, while profit is important, our business should also be a fun and rewarding place to work, we should do everything in our power to minimise our impact on the environment, we should pay a fair price to our suppliers and we should make the most extraordinary chocolate for our customers.
Twenty years later, those ideals have largely remained unchanged and if anything, as we have grown with more resources, we have tightened and improved controls as well as introduced many new ideas. We will never be finished and will always be working towards improving the way Montezuma’s does business. To us, this is simply business done properly. Below are some of those ideals and our approach and attitude to looking out for all of our partners and being great people to do business with.
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Sadly, chocolate is not one of your ‘5 a day’ and because it is an indulgent treat, it needs to taste incredible. If chocolate is your guilty pleasure, why would you want to compromise on the taste and flavour? At Montezuma’s, we have always prided ourselves on making extraordinary chocolate that tastes amazing. Cocoa, like any plant crop, is affected by weather patterns which seem to get more unpredictable each year. This means that the quality and quantity changes from year to year and hence why we source cocoa from several different regions, rather than focusing on one, to ensure our amazing Montezuma’s flavours remain consistently extraordinary.
However, we also know that there are major problems of poverty, slavery and child labour in some cocoa-producing countries and we have a massive responsibility to ensure we don’t turn a blind eye. Ethical sourcing has always been a core philosophy of Montezuma’s.
Our business has grown and we now have a far wider range and consequently, we have had to find other sources of cocoa to meet demand but which still meet our taste and ethical credentials. We work with a number of suppliers to source the best-tasting chocolate but everything we buy must also meet stringent ethical criteria and certifications which include Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, Soil Association and Cocoa Horizons. Taste is so important to us and therefore, we have never felt the need to commit to one certification or region as long as every chocolate purchase we make plays a part in improving the industry and the lives of farmers.
Our key principles for sourcing cocoa are :
- We only buy the best quality cocoa beans because we’re all about extraordinary chocolate that tastes amazing.
- We are committed to the long term sustainability of cocoa plantations and the wider industry. It’s vital that farmers earn enough money to survive and thrive, they learn how to improve the yield of their cocoa plants and their children get the education and medical care they deserve. We buy our cocoa with this philosophy in mind – it is all certified and comes from sustainable sources.
- Provenance is critical. We will never buy cocoa on the open market, because while it is cheaper, we cannot be certain it meets our ethical sourcing principles.
- We always aim to buy cocoa from sources free from deforestation.
- We are totally against any form of slavery or forced labour. We take active steps with our suppliers to ensure we are not purchasing from regions where this might be occurring.
- We pay a premium for all our cocoa for all the reasons outlined above.
- All our suppliers must sign up to our Supplier Code
Ultimately, we would love all our cocoa to be fully traceable back to the farm or plantation source and we are working with suppliers to achieve this. However, it’s a massive and complex project but one that will protect the lives and livelihoods of the key people in the supply chain – the farmers.
There are some countries and regions with particular challenges associated with farmers’ living standards. However, we are confident that we source ethically and responsibly as we have done since the business was founded 20 years ago. We are not complacent and constantly challenge ourselves and our suppliers, to do better, to listen more, and to change what needs to be changed. This has always been our philosophy and always will be.
We can not pretend that our efforts alone will solve all the problems of poverty, slavery and child labour but we do believe that we are making a difference and no matter how small the impact, it’s still worth doing.
We do not, and will never, use palm oil in our products. We know others use it because it’s much cheaper than cocoa butter but we will never compromise on quality or taste.
Wherever possible we aim to use store cupboard ingredients. It is our policy not to develop any new products containing artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, but where these already exist we are actively working to remove them.
We do not use any materials from genetically modified sources or which have been subject to irradiation.
As from early 2020, every piece of packaging on every chocolate, that we sell, is recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. That includes the glue, inks and stickers, as well as the tape, pallet wrap, and everything that we use for packaging and distribution. It’s been a mammoth task and we are super proud of what we’ve achieved. In fact, we believe we’re the first chocolate company in the UK to be able to make this claim on our entire range and across all packing materials.
However, we’re not satisfied with just our direct impact on the planet, we are now working with our suppliers to encourage them to review their packaging principles and swap their non-recyclable packaging to fully recyclable materials.
All our packaging is now only sourced from the UK and Europe, despite cheaper sources being available from countries further away. This supports our drive to become carbon neutral.
We are mindful that cocoa can only be grown in the equatorial belt and consequently we have a responsibility to ensure our collective carbon footprint is measured, monitored and improved. We have carried out a footprint assessment of our own business to work out where we can make the most impact. None of this is a quick or cheap exercise but as we grow, we are determined that our carbon footprint will not grow with us, so we are doing everything we can to measure and plan at this stage.
While we are taking steps to reduce our own carbon footprint, we are now challenging our suppliers to be more transparent with their current footprint and set targets for ongoing improvements.
Montezuma’s is currently in the process of seeking B-Corp accreditation which requires full transparency on our environmental impact.
Energy and Transport
For customer and supplier meetings, we are increasingly using video-conferencing to reduce our UK business mileage and our teams rarely fly and then only when business-critical, with no viable alternative.
We carry out all of our deliveries to the vast majority of our own stores every fortnight, at night, to reduce congestion and do it in the most fuel efficient manner we can.
All the power (electricity) for our office, factory and retail stores is from 100% renewable sources. We do not use gas.
All of our factory waste water, rich in chocolatey nutrients, is diverted away from the drains and into a collection tank where it’s treated and taken away for pig feed.
All the rubbish produced in our stores is returned to the factory for hand sorting and reusing or recycling. All the cardboard and paper rubbish produced in the business which cannot be re-used is compacted on site and removed for recycling. All our general waste is collected from the site and is either recycled or processed for energy recovery. We are very proud of our “zero to landfill” status.
We carefully select our suppliers to match our own principles of supplying good quality, ethical products. New suppliers need to pass our stringent requirements for food safety, quality, ethical and environmental controls before they can supply ingredients and packaging to Montezuma’s chocolates.
We aspire to have long term supplier partners and many of our suppliers have worked with us for many years; indeed several of them have been with us since day one, and as we’ve grown, they’ve grown with us.
We pay all our suppliers within agreed payment terms. For any supplier smaller than ourselves, we have committed to pay them within 30 days because we know, from personal experience, how important cash is in a small business.
We make extraordinary chocolate for our customers every single day! But we’re human and if we ever fail, we work hard to put it right. Every customer should leave our store with a bigger smile than when they arrived. This was one of our founding principles and remains true to this day. Exceptional customer service is the norm in our stores and being offered a chocolate tasting is a given. In the rare case of a complaint, we make it our mission to show that a bad situation can be turned into a good one. Normally it’s not hard, we have chocolate on our side!
It has always been of the utmost importance to us to have a fun and rewarding work environment. Goodness knows we spend enough time at work so we have to be able to enjoy it, and have pride and purpose in what we do. Happiness is crucial to a high-performing team which is why we measure it each Quarter as part of every team member’s ‘Making a Difference’ (MAD) review. We nurture all our people and always look to promote from within, at the time of writing nearly 30% of our current team have had an internal promotion. Indeed 12 of our team have been in the business for more than ten years. We reckon that’s not bad going when ten years ago, our staff count was around 60 people.
We currently pay over the National Living Wage for all of our team, regardless of age. You’ll be paid for the job you do, not the age you are.
Montezuma’s is proud to be an equal, diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone’s differences are embraced and celebrated. What matters most to us is that you can be “yourself” at work without compromise or fear. We have appointed Diversity champions and are striving to do as much as we can to increase diversity in the business.
OUR CHARITY & COMMUNITY
We have worked with Children on the Edge (COTE) for over 10 years which started when they asked if we could donate some Easter Eggs for a children’s treasure hunt. In our world, everything starts with chocolate! We have worked in partnership ever since and while it helps that we are both based in Chichester, it is our shared values and entrepreneurialism that have really bonded us. Children on the Edge do some amazing work with children who live on the edge of society all around the world.
In our stores, we supply paper bags for which we don’t charge. However, we do ask our lovely customers for a donation to COTE and in the last 10 years our ‘bags for cash’ have raised more than £100,000 which all goes directly to the charity.
With the increasing environmental concerns, the demand for bags has been in steep decline so we have partnered with Pennies, a micro-donation charity, to fund raise by donating through the check out process.
We set ourselves annual fundraising goals and run initiatives in our stores and Head Office to achieve them. Montezuma’s has committed to match the first £20,000 donated by customers.