Chocolate producers in the East Midlands could soon have a new piece of equipment to help them save time and money, thanks to support from the Food and Drink iNet (Innovation Network).

Each morning, small chocolatiers have to wait around an hour for the chocolate to reach the right conditions before they can start work.

Now the Food and Drink iNet has brought together engineers and academics to create a cost-effective solution to the problem, and is calling on small chocolate companies in the East Midlands to come forward if they’d like to be involved in the project.

“Small chocolatiers, working with relatively small chocolate tempering equipment, find that they spend at least the first hour of each day waiting for that day’s chocolate to reach the correct conditions for working,” said Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall. “This is related to melting and subsequently carefully cooling the chocolate to keep it in perfect condition. For all staff involved, this represents wasted production time of at least one hour each per day. Multiplied up per week and then per year means that a significant amount of time is wasted.

“Several companies have requested support in developing equipment, ideally from a local source, that will enable them to carry out the chocolate tempering process in such a way that the chocolate is ready for production when they start work in the morning.”

The Food and Drink iNet is working with food scientists in the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University and engineers at MCE Engineering Ltd in Derby on a Collaborate to Innovate initiative to develop a bolt-on piece of equipment that chocolatiers could use.

Mike Dixon, senior lecturer in food science at Nottingham Trent University, said: “MCE Engineering Ltd has designed some equipment and created a prototype, which has been successfully trialled at one of the chocolatiers involved in the project. We’re hoping that this can be added to existing chocolate tempering equipment and then lead to increased productivity, profitability, sustainability and planned growth of these companies.”

Any small or medium-sized chocolate companies in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland who are interested in taking part in the project should contact the Food and Drink iNet via

The Collaborate to Innovate initiatives seek to develop and deliver projects to enable groups of small and medium-sized enterprise businesses in the East Midlands food and drink supply chain to work collaboratively amongst themselves and with other key partners to overcome common problems by introducing innovation into their companies and improving their economic and competitive performance.

The Food and Drink iNet, which is funded by East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), aims to encourage innovation in the region’s food and drink sector through new ways of working, new product development and the introduction of new processes.

With advisors working across Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, it links academic and private sector expertise and knowledge with local food and drink business innovation needs.

The Food and Drink iNet is managed by a consortium, led by the Food and Drink Forum and including Food Processing Faraday, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham. For more information visit or contact the iNet via

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