David Greenwood-Haigh of Coeur de Xocolat

David Greenwood-Haigh of Coeur de Xocolat

Teambuilding with chocolate

Award-winning Pontefract chocolatier and businessman David Greenwood-Haigh is traveling the world using chocolate to help bring businesses together. He tells BQ how he made it happen…

From pot washing, to kitchen assistant, caterer and salesman, David Greenwood-Haigh has literally cut his teeth in the food industry since his first part-time job as a dish washer 40 years ago.

Today however, he is an award-winning chocolatier, teaching people across the globe everything they need to know about chocolate.

“I was born and raised in Pontefract,” David said. “I worked as a pot wash from the age of 14 whilst I was still at school which is where I fell in love with food.

“After finishing school I went to study at catering college before going on to work in a number of hotels around Yorkshire. I then went on to work for an industrial caterer where I became a catering manager.

“From there I went on to work for Unilever as a salesman. They used to employ chefs to sell to chefs. The idea was they had people who understood food selling to, you guessed it, people who loved food.”

It was whilst working as a salesman that David rekindled his passion for food which had somewhat dwindled away since hanging up the apron in return for a shirt and tie.

“I ended up my sales career working for Divine Chocolate, a fair-trade chocolate company. I worked for them for 11 years but as I was doing that my passion for food was rekindled.

“Every time I went to see some of my buyers, I discovered that most of them didn’t know how to actually taste chocolate. When I say that, I mean like tasting wines, you use all of the aromas.

“As part of my sales technique I decided to take my knowledge and develop a chocolate tasting method. My customers loved it and some of them asked me to come and do demonstrations for their teams.

“I found myself doing more talks about chocolate, looking at the technical aspects as well as the sensory aspects and that became a bigger part of what I did. Following this, I decided I could do this full-time for myself.”

David took the bold decision of hanging up his tie and launching his own business back in 2011, with the launch of Coeur de Xocolat (which is French for Heart of Chocolate).

The business specialises in chocolate events, consultation and demonstration which allows him to share his knowledge and experiences with chocolate by putting his unique twist on the chocolate world.

David started off by going into schools and delivering workshops showing pupils how to create chocolate. As part of the workshops, he would educate them on the entire process of manufacturing a chocolate bar and show them the practical side of it.

The pupils loved the concept and it was from this that he identified the opportunity to turn the workshops into corporate events, similar to what he had been doing in his previous sales role.

He said: “I developed a chocolate making team building exercise. We develop a scenario where you have inherited a company in trouble and have to find a way of reviving it.

“The consultants come in and say you need three new varieties. I then split people in to sub teams, one for production and one for marketing.

“I give them market data, recipes, cost sheets and then teach them the process of how to create chocolate.

“They then go away and create a brand, a little bit like you would on The Apprentice, only they have more data and market data so they make more important decisions on why they’re doing things.”

The business-to-business side of the company proved a huge success and David went on to work with a number of major blue chip clients not just at home but across the globe.

He added: “Since launching the courses, I’ve worked with pcw, Comic Relief, Trade Craft, the Co-Op, I’ve worked with lots of big names. I even got flown to Evian in the South of France to work with Danone.

“They flew all of their purchasing directors from all over the world in and brought me over to do a teambuilding workshop in the original hotel where Evian was founded. We made chocolate truffles through Evian water, it was fantastic.

“I’ve also delivered similar teambuilding exercises for one of the biggest companies in Dubai. We taught their sales team how to make chocolate and then they had to write their sales strategy, based on how it was made, and try and sell it to one another.”

As a small start-up consultancy, when David first started selling overseas, he wasn’t too sure how to go about it. With this in mind, he got in touch with the Department for International Trade (formerly UKTI).

“I work with a trade advisor at the DIT who has been really useful. For my trip to Dubai I received a grant for my travel which was a huge boost. I also went to Paris with them last year where I met the British Embassy as part of a trade mission. Hopefully my next Paris trips will be supported by them.”

Looking forward, David has ambitious plans for the company and having turned a profit last year, he is expecting to turnover £60,000 this next financial year.

“Since launching four years ago we’re now in profit. We turned over £60,000 last year. From a standing start with no debts at all.

“Looking forward, the aim is to do more consulting. I have three projects on this year which to say we’re only three weeks into the New Year I’m quite pleased with.

“I expect this year to be my first full operating year where I’m not spending most of my time trying to develop a reputation and I can actually focus on the business.”