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A sweet start to the new year

NO sooner had it tucked the Santa Claus and Christmas tree-shaped moulds back in the store cupboard for another year than one Northamptonshire chocolate business has dug out the hearts and red ribbons in readiness for Valentine’s Day.

But whatever the seasonal design of their delicious delights, the one thing of which husband and wife team Stefaan and Mervi Moyaert from Belflair Chocolates in Brackley are confident is that their labelling and packaging is as perfect as the tasty treats on the inside, thanks to guidance from a project designed to help food and drink manufacturers in the county.

FEAST2 (Food Enterprise Advisory Support Team) offers access to grant funding, sector events, mentoring and technical support to eligible businesses and, having received a grant of £2,000 from the scheme’s predecessor, it was the last element of guidance which the couple were keen to tap into this time, as Mervi explained: “We bought a new piece of equipment two years ago thanks to the original FEAST project, which proved to be an invaluable boost to our production, so when FEAST2 was launched, we signed up immediately.

“This time we weren’t looking to purchase anything but, given the recent high-profile cases where things have gone tragically wrong over food mislabelling, we wanted help to ensure that all our ingredients and nutritional information was listed correctly and was up to date with the latest legislation, and the assistance we’ve had has been amazing.

“Not only did we come away from the free labelling seminar with lots of useful reference material, but we also know we have a technical advisor on the end of the phone or email whenever we need her, which is just so reassuring.”

Despite working flat out for the last four months of 2019 to meet the festive demand for their sweet treats, including for such glamorous regular customers as The Ritz, The Savoy and The Dorchester, the couple did award themselves a well-earned night off in November to attend the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards dinner – only to see their Raspberry Fruity Chocolate win the title of Artisan Local Sweet Product of the Year (sponsored by Moulton College).

However, as Stefaan revealed, that has only added to their workload: “We’ve been a finalist in the awards in previous years and so we know what a difference success in the competition and its related publicity can bring but, if I’m honest, we didn’t expect the impact that this victory has had.

“The chocolate became one of our best-sellers over Christmas and we had to double our production to keep up with demand and I don’t expect that to let up as we get closer to Valentine’s Day and, of course, Easter and Mother’s Day after that.”

So, on the subject of next month’s excuse for romantic gestures, will Stefaan be presenting Mervi with a selection box come 14 February?

“I don’t think so!” he grinned. “I’d obviously love it if everyone showed they cared by buying some of our delicious chocolates for their other halves, but I think I might be issued with divorce proceedings on the 15th if I did that.”

FEAST2 was awarded to the Food & Drink Forum and is worth £3,934,176 in total. It will receive a further £1,967,089 in funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

For more details of the project, including registering your business for the free support on offer, contact Amanda Askew at The Mallows Company on 01933 664437 or email

Meanwhile for more information about Belflair Chocolates, including ordering its chocolates online or details of its local stockists, visit www.belflairchocolates.co.uk

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