Chocolate. We love it, you love it and every day, millions of people enjoy it in all its delicious forms. But where does it come from and how did it get to be so popular? In this short history of chocolate, we’ll look at how a simple, rather bitter-tasting little bean was transformed into one of the best loved foods in the world.
Now, if you’re sitting comfortably, preferably with a big bag of your favourite Thorntons, we’ll begin...
The amazing Aztecs…
Our journey starts around 4,000 years ago in the Americas. Ancient tribes like the Aztecs and Mayans revered cacao (or cocoa) beans, eating them before going into battle because they were thought to give strength. The Aztecs also believed that cacao actually came from paradise itself and whoever ate the beans would be blessed with wisdom, energy and, ahem, enhanced sexual powers.
Hang on, we’ve got an idea!
The Aztecs are thought to have been the first people to turn the cacao beans into a more edible form. They roasted the beans, ground them into a paste and dissolved the paste in water with a few spices and chillies. It might not sound particularly yummy, but there it was, the very first drinking chocolate. They called it chocolate, which means bitter drink, and it was lapped up in sacred rituals and quaffed by elite tribesmen for the next few hundred years, until...
In the 1500s the Europeans decided to go exploring and stick their noses in. We’re all familiar with Chris Columbus, the Spanish conquistadors’ ‘discovery’ of America and just how badly that turned out for the native people. But at first the Spanish didn’t realise the potential for cacao, preferring other wonders like gold.
Welcome to Spain
In 1519, the Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortez visited the court of Emperor Montezuma in Mexico, where he was presented with a golden goblet of chocolate. Realising he’d stumbled across something pretty amazing, Cortez took some cacao beans back to Spain, where monks perfected a technique for roasting and grinding them. They also had the brilliant idea of replacing the chilli with cane sugar to improve the taste.
Just for posh people?
With the Aztecs conquered, the Spanish were able to establish their own huge plantations and export large amounts of cacao back to Europe. By the 17th century, chocolate had become something of a luxury item among Europe’s aristocracy.
In the 17th century, diarist Samuel Pepys swore by chocolate’s energising properties and Napoleon carried it with him into battle to give him a quick boost. Parisians were using it to treat problems like indigestion and nervous conditions.
But with the advent of the industrial revolution and mass production in the late 18th and early 19th century, delicious chocolate, now in a solid form, began to take off in a big way.
We love chocolate!
Today, chocolate has become one of the most versatile and beloved foods in the world. And yet it’s become so much more – we have an emotional, sensual connection with chocolate that we have with few other foods. It comforts us, delights us, draws us in and gives us a taste experience unlike any other. Simply put, we love it. And the humble beans it comes from have had a heck of a journey over the past 4,000 years.
The very first Thorntons Chocolate Kabin was opened in October 1911 in Sheffield by travelling confectioner Joseph William Thornton.
Joseph then handed the keys to his sons Norman and Stanley, 14 and 11 at the time and told them to make it the best sweet shop in town... they didn't do a bad job did they?
One of Thorntons most famous products is Special Toffee, this was created by Stanley in 1925. It became so popular that it soon made up half of the total sales and became the company's best known product for the next 50 years. It was often referred to as the fuel for the steel workers in the city.
This product was the engine that drove the business for many years and in many people's minds the words ‘Thorntons' and ‘Toffee' became synonymous. Stanley's recipe is still used today.
In the 1980s Thorntons toffee chopping competitions took place around the country to find the toffee chopping champion. It was a competition to find the fastest person to chop slabs of Special Toffee with hammers. Some of the original toffee hammers can still be found in Thorntons factory.
With business booming in 1931 Norman and Stanley Thornton left the Penistone Road Factory and moved to premises on Stalker Lees Road in Sheffield, where they purchased their first Enrober for £175. It was here that the brothers first made their Chocolate Truffles by hand, as well as candies, fudge and crystallised fondants.
In 1934 the brothers built a purpose built factory on Archer Road, Sheffield. By this time the company employed around 40 people in the factory, 40 in the shops and two in the office. Thorntons moved from Sheffield to Derbyshire in 1948 when they bought a factory in Belper for £8400 after seeing an advert for it in the local paper.
As the business grew and grew they then needed a larger site so moved to Thornton Park in Derbyshire, which was opened by The Queen and remains our home today.
Thorntons vision is to be Britain's best loved chocolate brand, making every customer smile. This is something that we all work towards every day in every role across the business. This vision is underpinned by our three values:
In order to continue to work towards our vision we want to attract passionate people who naturally exude our three values.
Bringing People Together
We recognise that part of what makes working at Thorntons so great is the sense of teamwork. We are all working together to achieve great things not only within our own teams but as a wider team across the business.
In 2011 a team of colleagues from all areas of the business cycled from John O Groats to Lands End visiting 100 of our stores along the way. The team raised an amazing amount of money for the NSPCC.
Paul Bell works in our factory and had longed to make the worlds biggest chocolate bar ever since he was a child. Last year was our 100th birthday celebration and Paul's dream came true when a team of people from all over the business came together in all weathers and at all times of day and night to help him create a chocolate bar weighing a world record breaking 5792.5kg!
This massive chocolate Christmas Tree for our Christmas in July press event.
Being creative at Thorntons is about identifying opportunities to do things better and there is the chance for everyone in every role across the business to do this.
Working with chocolate also gives us tons of opportunities to be creative. We love to turn our great ideas into a reality and we have some really exciting examples of this.
This value is one where we really get to blow our own trumpet. From our factories through to our stores we set high standards and lead in our field and because we are so good at what we do we win awards.
Our store colleagues are some of the most important people within the Company. The success of Thorntons depends hugely on their professionalism, dedication, commitment and ambition to fulfil their full potential.
From the moment a customer enters the store, they embody the brand experience. Our store teams bring the brand to life and make customers feel like the centre of the universe.
Being a successful member of a retail team is a fantastic career. Not only are you part of a massive, integral industry but you will constantly learn new things and be challenged to be at your very best, every day.
Consumers do not stand still and their needs and tastes are constantly evolving so we must also evolve, new products, new ways of interacting with our customer and new ways to enable them to access our products and experience our brand.
But why else would you want to join one of Britain’s best loved brands in our stores;
Whether you are a student, a working parent, or just enjoy your free time we can offer flexible hours to fit around you.
You will be supported to approach and interact with every customer. You will have a full induction, be taught how to ice, wrap and personalise gifts, knowing how special this will be to the receiver.
Sky’s the limit!
Where do you want to go, how can you be the best you can be? We actively support our team members to progress and achieve, we like to call it our x2 talent approach, we look to recruit people who we can see being promoted at least twice in their time with us. Even if you may love the role you already do, there are many ways to ensure you are challenged and rewarded, whether this be through extra product training or gaining responsibility as a legendary customer service champion.
In order to join our retail team you will want to show us how you delight in providing exceptional customer service. You will also be able to lead others to give the same high level of satisfaction.
Having recently been acquired and supported by Ferrero, we are looking for people who will help us to write the next chapter in our history. We are looking to build on our very solid foundations and evolve great customer service to make it legendary. We need to take our stores, our people and our store experience to the next level. We want our customers to love us and other retails to aspire to be us.Thorntons is going places, will you come with us?
To join our stores teams please check out our careers site for our store Management positions or contact your local store for Sales Assistant vacancies.
Being one of Britain's best loved brands takes a team of people who are dedicated, passionate, diligent, cheerful, thoughtful, resilient, ambitious and most of all consumed by the desire to make all of our customers (and colleagues) smile everyday.
This doesn't happen overnight and here at Thorntons we take the time to ensure the people we recruit are as important as the yummy chocolates we make. On this site we have pulled together all the reasons why Thorntons is a such a fantastic place to work. You'll find everything from how we started, to where we are going, stories from people who work at Thorntons, information about what makes us tick plus a whole host of handy bits of information to help you decide if you want to come and join the best sweetshop in town.
Our company vision is to be Britain’s best loved chocolate brand, making every customer smile. This is something that we all work towards every day across our business and this vision is underpinned by our three values: Creativity, Excellence and Bringing People Together.
Being creative at Thorntons is about identifying opportunities to do things better and there is the chance for everyone in every role across the business to do this. Working with chocolate also gives us lots of opportunities to be creative.
We love to turn our great ideas into reality and we aim to put that touch of creativity into everything we do, from our products right the way through to our stores and service. We want to make all our customers smile after all!
We hope that excellence shines through. This value is one where we really get to blow our own trumpet! From our factories through to our stores, we set high standards and lead in our field. We are really proud of some of the fantastic awards that we’ve won for our excellent work over the years.
Bringing People Together
We recognise that part of what makes working at Thorntons so great is the sense of teamwork. We are all working together to achieve great things not only within our own teams but as a wider team across the business. We also want to bring all of our customers together by making sure that, through our chocolate and our people, we help our customers say important things to those they care about.
I have been working at Thorntons (UK) full-time (More than 10 years)
Challenging constant learning
Chocolate toffee fudge
Family company in every way
Great role models
Customer experience is excellent
Pay could be more competitive
Benifit package could be improved
Communication could improve
Advice to Management
Keep being honest your people are the key to your success and they are the heartbeat of our brand
I applied in-person. I interviewed at Thorntons (UK).
Really nice group interview process, employees were friendly and encouraging. They gave us some group tasks to do for example 2 truths 1 lie. I was called a few days later to confirm that I had the job and started a week after. All in all a positive experience.