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Sweet success for 'chocolate' bonds

From Juliet Mann, CNN
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Fri August 24, 2012
  • Hotel Chocolate raised about $6.3 million by selling "chocolate bonds" to investors
  • The cash has been crucial to the business's ability to expand
  • British fast food chain Leon recently launched a similar mini bonds campaign

(CNN) -- A British chocolate company is tasting some sweet money-making success by selling "chocolate bonds" to its customers.

Hotel Chocolat's chief executive officer, Angus Thirlwell, launched a scheme in July 2010 that allowed investors to buy up to $6,000 worth of bonds during a six week period. The interest is paid in boxes of chocolates and the money invested will be paid out in July 2013.

According to the Bank of England, lending to small and medium sized businesses has been shrinking since 2009, but by selling their own bonds Hotel Chocolat raised about $6.3 million. The cash has been crucial to the business's ability to expand.

"We want to become better and better at being a chocolate maker. Now we are getting a machine for ultra fine chocolate cups that we can fill with fruit, whole nuts, ganache," Thirlwell said. "It is a multi-million pound investment which would not have been possible without the chocolate bond capital."

Hotel Chocolat isn't alone in its creative pitch for capital. Leon, the health conscious fast food chain, launched a similar mini bond scheme in July, which pays up to 15% interest in the form of "£eon pounds" -- not pounds sterling -- that can be spent in the store.

Jonathan Walmsley, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said such capital raising ventures are becoming increasingly poplar in Europe. "We certainly think it is potentially a viable means of finance -- it is much needed," he said. "We do need to be exploring alternative means of financing given that a lot of traditional bank financing has not been available for small firms," he said.

CNN's Stina Backer contributed to this report

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