The Whitaker family have shared a passion for chocolate for over 135 years now. From humble beginnings, we have developed our business from a small greengrocers shop to a fully operational chocolate factory making over 10 million chocolates per week!
Here's how it all started...
In 1889 John and Rebecca Whitaker opened their grocery and draper's shop in the small Yorkshire village of Crosshills, Skipton. They were helped by their two children, Reg and Ida. Although Reg and Ida were very young, they loved nothing more than helping their mum and dad out in the family shop and speaking to customers.
It's here where the legacy of Whitakers Chocolates began.
Reg and Ida loved working with their parents in the shop. Reg helped in the shop and made deliveries to customers. Ida on the other hand was the creative one. She wanted to develop the range in the shop. Ida enrolled herself onto a bakery course in Morecambe and learnt everything she needed to make great cakes and fancies!
The grocers shop was quickly turned into a bakery and confectioners. Ida became renowned for her master baking skills, in particular, her wonderful Wedding Cakes but she also had a secret passion for chocolate! Thought by a local vicar's wife in a neighbouring village, Ida soon became a master chocolatier too! Her handmade chocolates went down a storm with customers and quickly became infamous.
Do you know? Today, we still make both retail and wholesale fudge and chocolates using Ida's original recipes!
Business was booming and the family decide to move the shop to bigger premises in the Yorkshire town of Skipton. They found prime real estate on the busy high street and soon opened a beautiful bakery and confectioners. There was also room upstairs to open a cafe and restaurant too. This is where customer could enjoy Ida's wonderful cake, fancies and handmade chocolate truffles.
The move to Skipton surpassed all expectations. The shop and cafe were so busy that the family had to develop a separate purpose-built bakery to keep up with the demand. This was developed in the grounds of the family home in Skipton.
Whitakers Chocolates was getting busier and bigger by the day. Ida was baking more and more and creating new chocolate products. Her brother Reg was delivering freshly baked breads and cakes across Yorkshire but love was in the air!
The bakery in Skipton was a hive of activity and a major source of employment locally. Whilst the Whitaker family were still hands on, they needed help to maintain and grow the business.
Claire Smith was an employee working in the bakery when she caught Reg's eye. From that moment, they fell in love!
A couple of years past, they were married and went on the have 4 wonderful children - John, Fred, Peter and Susan.
The wars years...
World War 2 started in 1939 and continued for 6 years and 1 day! Within this time many shops and businesses closed, never to be seen again. However, through the good and the bad, through the war and rationing, Whitakers Chocolates survived and opened its doors in 1945.
But times had changed for everyone. In this time Ida found another passion for Art and Antiques and found a shop on Skipton High Street where she opened her first ever solo shop.
Reg and Claire wanted to continue and build the family business, so they took over the Whitaker family shop and bakery. They both loved working together and did so right up until Reg fell ill & died suddenly.
Claire wasn't left alone in the business for long until her eldest son John, aged 19 joined Whitakers (and with a little help now and then from Ida!).
This was a very sad year for the Whitaker family.
Ida Whitaker passed away, leaving a legacy of baking and master chocolate making behind.
To this day, Ida remains a true Whitaker hero. Without her passion, innovation and creativity, Whitakers Chocolates wouldn't be what it is today.
Today, we still use Ida's recipes to make our chocolates and fudge!
Just like Ida, John Whitaker had a passion for chocolate from a very early age (and cars!)
He worked hard alongside his mother Claire developing the chocolate side of the business.
John could see a gap in the market for supplying chocolates to pubs, restaurants, hotels as well as selling to other retail customers.
It was in this year, that John persuaded his mother to form Whitakers Chocolatiers (Skipton) Limited.
Whitakers Chocolates couldn't make chocolate fast enough and baking was taking a back seat.
John and Claire both decided that chocolate was the future of the business and they made a start on expanding the factory site so chocolate production could be increased. This meant digging out the large rose garden that belonged to the family home.
John also knew that automation was the way forward and took a big financial risk investing in a new piece of machinery from Germany. It was this machinery that changed the landscape of Whitakers Chocolates forever. From here our famous after-dinner mint chocolate was born - The original Mint chocolate Wafer thin!
This super thin and crispy chocolate wafer became a UK and international hit and was exported to over 25 countries worldwide as the ultimate after dinner treat!
John continued to run the family business alone once his beloved mother died.
Whitakers Chocolates was now a well known name in the chocolate world not just in the UK but worldwide.
John was married by this time with 3 children, William, James and daughter Sally.
It was in 1980 that John's eldest son, William joined his side.
William shared his fathers passion for all things chocolate and was keen to join him in moving the business even further.
John and William loved working together, they lived and breathed chocolate, and they were constantly looking for new and innovative ways to make chocolate.
Together (with the help of their ever-growing team), they identified a gap in the market for foil-wrapped chocolate products. They both wanted to be the kings of individually wrapped chocolates!
They identified the best machinery to invest in, and within a few months, we were making foil chocolate a reality. They introduced foiled fondant creams, foiled truffles and wrapped chocolate Neapolitans.
Did you know today over 50% of Whitakers products (retail and bulk buy wholesale) are foiled?
It's time for a change at Whitakers Chocolates...
Don't worry we're not changing anything about how we make our delicious chocolates, we just thought it was about time we updated our look!
Introducing our new logo, brand style, new and exciting product range (including Gluten Free and Vegan chocolates!).
We getting ready and making way for the next 130 years of Whitakers Chocolates.
We're busy making history!