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Producer of the Month: Sarah Payne, Cocoa Loco, West Grinstead, Sussex

Producer of the Month: Sarah Payne, Cocoa Loco, West Grinstead, Sussex


Producer of the Month: Sarah Payne, Cocoa Loco, West Grinstead, Sussex

Chocolate lover, Sarah Payne, started making chocolate brownies when she was on maternity leave in 2004. They were so popular amongst her friends that she started selling them on eBay. 

They started to sell at such a successful rate that her husband Rory decided to re-claim his kitchen and built a mini chocolate factory in the garden. He also left his job in IT to help. The expansion into other chocolate products started when one of Sarah's customers from eBay asked if she could make truffles for a wedding. From thenceforth Sarah began an ongoing experimentation with chocolate. 

With space to only make thirty bars of chocolate at a time, Sarah soon outgrew her garden and so they took a gamble and bought a nearby ice cream factory. This became The Chocolate Barn, where Dawn Simpson also joined the team as master chocolatier. They sell brownies, chocolate bars, truffles, lollypops and flakes, amongst an array of other chocolate goodies, online through their website and at independent shops. 

  • Why do you do what you do? 

I love chocolate. As a child, Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite book; I read it at least a dozen times. I also love cooking. When my youngest child started school it seemed the perfect time to start a business utilising my baking skills and using my favourite ingredient. 

  • What achievement are you most proud of? 

It's such an amazing feeling to be nominated for an award by our customers. We were tremendously honoured when we were awarded the title of Organic Food Hero by The Times in 2008. We also won Sussex food producer of the year a few years ago, which was just fantastic. 

  • What is your most memorable moment? 

Meeting Monty Don when he presented us with our Organic Food Hero award. I'm a big fan of his… 

  • If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food? 

Spend some time going on a Great British Food Tour taking along lots of media with me and showcasing some of the fantastic regional food we produce here in the UK.

  • What is your favourite food and why? 
Apart from chocolate?… mushrooms. I love mushrooms of all kinds and mushroom risotto is my favourite pre-running food to help me fuel up. 

  • What are your predictions for the future of British food? 
2012 is a fantastic time for us to be celebrating all things British. I hope that events such as the Olympics and The Queen's Diamond Jubilee will bring about a resurgence of interest in local food that continues long into the future. 

  • If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food? 
Be British, Eat British or Be a British Champion – Champion British Food. 

  • Beat the recession tip? 
Eat more home-grown vegetables. 

  • What's on the menu this evening? 
I'm not sure, as it's a surprise… Our daughter is making supper as she is home from University. Luckily she is a fantastic cook. Whatever it is, the ingredients will be locally produced and British. 

  • How can people get hold of your produce? 
We send our chocolate all over the world and people can order from our website. You can also buy our chocolates from Abel and Cole as well as in Oxfam gift shops, and lots of delis and farm shops too.