Another year is done and dusted for fifteen Central Hutt hospitality businesses who entered into the 2020 Sweet As Challenge™. Into its sixth year, the competition was definitely a challenge in light of the recent lockdown due to COVID 19.
“We found hot chocolate can be a delicious way to encourage people to support their local businesses here in Central Hutt and the support they received from the general public was incredible,” says Cyndi Christensen, Hutt City Council CBD Development Manager.
This year’s challenge was four days shorter than previous years and had two fewer hospitality operators. For the first time a brand new website was created so the booklet and voting could move online, making it easier for café owners and staff to reduce paper usage.
The challenge offered a few extra activities including Buzz’s “Famous in Lower Hutt, Death by Hot Chocolate Party” and Atrium’s “Burning Down the House” party offering flaming hot chocolates. The community came out in support of the QuarterPast Hot Chocolate Hour Pop-up which featured design your own hot chocolate in exchange for a donation to the Lower Hutt Food Bank. Nearly $500.00 and hundreds of dollars in food items were donated over the 12 hours the pop-up was open.
The total number of Sweet As hot chocolates sold this year was close to last year’s with seventeen challengers and a challenge period of 24 days. 12,158 Sweet As hot chocolates were sold this year compared to 14,500 in 2019 – 640 per day on average compared to 604 per day in 2019. A few of the challengers commented on their Sweet As Challenge experience-
One stated “Our average daily sales doubled, paid all the related invoices, set money aside for the extra wages, put the GST into another account and topped up the staff leave account so I’m feeling very proud of myself.”
Another challenger that has participated for many years stated “turnover was way up. Last week alone we were up 10K!”
A newer challenger said “This year our choc sales were up by 40% on last year’s entry, the additional revenue overall was 50 % higher for the extent of the competition than last year, so awesome and well done, here’s to next year!”
The winning drink for the 2020 Sweetest Hot Chocolate in Lower Hutt is Granny’s Apple Pie created by The Crooked Elm. It was described as ‘ tasting just like your grandma made, a spiced apple & custard with a white chocolate after taste. The flavours come in waves, just like the “Willy Wonkas” famous blueberry pie and custard lolly,’ said creator and owner of The Crooked Elm, Paul Rowan.
Paul wanted to connect his hot chocolate entry to the business, an English style pub featuring comfort food like pies and said it won the hearts of hot chocolate enthusiasts from all over the region.
“The hot chocolate challenge has firmly put Lower Hutt on the culinary map for innovation and is an excellent medium to encourage the community and business owners and workers to venture outside their comfort zone and try something different,” said Paul Rowan.