Sweet like chocolate success for couple who are loco about cocoa

JPCT 23-01-13 S13041333X Cocoa Loco, The Chocolate Barn, Hill House, West Grinstead. Founder, Sarah Payne -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 23-01-13 S13041333X Cocoa Loco, The Chocolate Barn, Hill House, West Grinstead. Founder, Sarah Payne -photo by Steve Cobb

With customers including Jamie Oliver, Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate and John Lewis, Cocoa Loco continues to grow.

Jasmin Martin went to the West Grinstead chocolatier to discover the secret of their success.

We all go loco for a bit of cocoa. I mean what’s not to love? Any occasion, any emotion and chocolate is always the answer .

From dark to milk, truffles to bars, buttons to brownies, Cocoa Loco is full of answers and with Easter and Mother’s Day just around the corner, you’d be bunny-hopping mad not to surprise someone with a sweet treat from this family- run business.

So where did it all begin?

“I was a computer programmer and then I had children and took time off work to be a full time mum,” explained founder Sarah Payne.

“I decided that I enjoyed that so much I didn’t want to go back to doing what I’d done before.

“I was desperately trying to think what I could do to earn some money so that’s when I started making brownies and selling them on ebay.”

However sceptical Sarah’s husband Rory was initially, within 18 months he had given up his job in the city to join her on her chocolate dream.

Continuing to grow since it’s founding in 2005, Cocoa Loco now produces its goods at the Chocolate Barn – a commercial kitchen inside a 250-year-old barn on the beautiful Knepp Castle estate and asside from being utterly delicious, everything they make is organically made, Fairtrade and vegetarian.

“Having everything organic is basically in line with my personal values,” said Sarah.

“We also buy most of our dry ingredients from Infinity, our eggs are organic from Lee House Farm over near Billingshurst, and as everything we make is vegetarian, we use a company that supplies suitable jellies.”

Most of Cocoa Loco’s dark chocolate products are vegan friendly too, and the team are currently lovingly hand-making more glorious creations in time for Easter and Mother’s Day.

She added: “We’re making pink and white flowers for mums this year but because everything is organic and nothing can be artificial, the pink colour is from raspberry powder and, this is going to sound horrible, the green leaves are made with spinach powder – but they still taste like chocolate!” reassured Sarah

A fountain of accolades that have flowed their way as thickly as their chocolate include being named Sussex food producer of the year in the Sussex Food and Drink awards in their first year.

They also nationally won The Times Organic hero award in 2008 – yet they still have time for children Lauren, 19 and Oscar , 12.

“This year I’m planning on entering the Academy of Chocolate Awards and that’s something I’m going to focus on as well as my other little project, which is writing a chocolate book,” added Sarah.

“I think we’re quite unique, our products appeal to anyone and we really do have the most amazing customers.”

Visit www.cocoaloco.co.uk