Your name, age and a little about you…
My name is Jens Knoop, I’m 51 years old and I moved to the UK from Germany in the nineties to study photography in Bournemouth. I then went on to spend several years living in central London and travelled the world filming opinion research. Craving a change from London life and international travel, I moved to East Sussex and set my mind to creating my own business. I decided to indulge my passion for chocolate – and so Knoops was born.
Tell us about your business…
The business is called Knoops and I opened my first store in Rye, East Sussex and then expanded into London with stores in Kensington, Chelsea, Clapham Junction and Richmond.
Brighton was a natural next step, as a buzzing tourist destination with its highly engaged food and drink scene. Finally, we opened an Oxford store just this month. Knoops is still expanding, and we are looking at options for our next store. We also have an online store where we sell our products to enjoy at home.
What’s the concept behind your business?
The ethos of Knoops is simple. We’re focused on quality, sustainable chocolate drinks that offer the widest range of choice compared to anywhere else on the high street. We’re here to allow visitors to indulge in their love of chocolate.
The Knoops in-store experience is truly unique. We have a process that I’ve coined as ‘Knoopology’. This is the ultimate personalisation process - a four-step method where individuals choose their preferred hot or cold drink followed by their chocolate percentage (we have over 20!). Next they choose their milk or plant-based alternative before finally enhancing their chocolate with flavoursome add-ons. We pour it out as a smooth hot chocolate, or over cold milk and ice for an iced chocolate. It can even be blended with ice cream for a delicious milkshake.
The Knoops online store sells the ingredients, appliances and recipe book to empower customers to get creative and experience the joy of creating delicious chocolate drinks at home. This allows them to become a true ‘Knoopologist’.
Are consumers becoming more discerning with chocolate?
Consumers are definitely becoming more interested in chocolate, in where it comes from, and the distinctive characteristics of different Single Origin chocolates. There is such variation in sweetness and flavour notes in our range of over 20 chocolates, that there is something for all tastes. We really feel like we are creating a new category, a bit like coffee thirty years ago, given the interest we've seen in our stores and our unique offering.
Is sustainability important to you?
We source our ingredients from a wide range of suppliers, some big, some small. Responsibility and sustainability are engrained in our DNA. Knoops uses as much recycled, recyclable and compostable materials as we can for everything, from the chocolate flakes, to the takeaway cups and even the store design. We only source completely traceable chocolate that positively impacts the local communities where it is produced and have partnered with a select group of chocolate makers who are genuinely committed to improving the sustainability of their cocoa, because we know the industry isn’t perfect and has further to go.
You include a lot of herbs and spices; how do you balance the flavours and does the cocoa % impact on how much flavour chocolate can carry?
Mainly we recommend our blends - the 34% milk chocolate, 54% dark and 70% extra dark - as the best options to carry an additional herb, spice or fruit flavour. Our Single Origins have distinctive characters, such as our 43% with butterscotch and hazelnut, that is often best left unadulterated by any flavour - other than perhaps a pinch of sea salt, which helps to accentuate the caramel notes.
What are you plans for the future?
We have big plans for the future. We are looking forward to the summer season in Brighton and welcoming tourists back to the area. In Oxford we are enjoying great success for the new store. We also have big ambitions to open around ten new stores by the end of 2023 and grow our online store with new, delicious products and gifting options. It’s an exciting time for Knoops.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I never thought I’d get the opportunity to write a book! It’s always been a dream of mine. My cookbook, Knoops - Chocolate recipes through the day, features 40 drinks and 20 dishes, all created using Knoops chocolate flakes and ingredients found in most kitchen cupboards.
With sweet and savoury recipes from breakfast through to lunch, dinner and dessert, the book gives readers the opportunity to savour new flavour combinations and experiment with even more Knoopology at home.
Knoops, 42 Market Street, Brighton BN1 1HH • www.knoops.co.uk