With ambitious plans to scale to 3,000 stores globally in the next decade, Knoops’ CEO William Gordon-Harris explains how the brand will retain its culture of connection through a period of rapid expansion


Off the back of new openings in central London and Manchester, Knoops has no plans to dilute its artisanal offering as it eyes international expansion, CEO William Gordon-Harris tells MCA.

After securing a multi-million-pound loan from existing shareholders, the premium chocolate drinks brand and café operator is now targeting 200 stores in the UK and has plans to scale to 3,000 stores globally over the next 10 years.

From his first interaction with the brand as a customer at founder Jens Knoop’s début site in Rye, Gordon-Harris has always believed in the huge potential to bring the business to a mass market.

He says upon finding Knoops, it was an “uncommercial enterprise” with “master distiller” Knoop at the helm - but that the potential was obvious.

“At the beginning, I thought I would put a team into place and then simply exit,” Gordon-Harris tells MCA. 

“But when I saw what we had on our hands, I thought the opportunity was so huge it really deserved complete attention as it could be replicated fast and at scale in the UK and globally.” 

Since very early on, Gordon-Harris’ vision for the company has always been to “lead the revolution” in a new category and become the “new Starbucks” for premium chocolate drinks.

“Having a significant market share as first mover in a larger and larger expanding market is much better than having virtually all the market share in a very small market”, he says.

“Our model is to introduce barista quality hot and cold chocolate drinks to everyone.” 

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“It’s about a moment”

Part of this strategy is to create an egalitarian offering. Gordon-Harris feels that Knoops offers an “affordable luxury” and will remain this way as it scales.

“This is a mass market proposition”, he says. “Our curated range of chocolate drinks allows relevance for everyone”.

Knoops offers around 20 different chocolate blends, graded according to their cacao strength, with hot, iced and milkshake drinks on offer, as well as other ingredients such as salt, matcha and cinnamon which customers can customise their drinks with.

“The accessibility flows into our design and everything else we do”, he says.

Crucial to this approach is a mission to create human experiences; one of the reasons the brand believes it has so much potential to scale.

“Knoops is about a moment. What we’re creating in the shops, is a space for you to understand and adopt this category.

“It might be a couple of undergraduates dating in a university city, it might be a child and father coming back from football, it might be two friends people meeting in a town centre for a catch up.

“The moment can be different, but the feeling of joy is universal”.

The CEO believes the power of this message cannot be weakened through growth, even when it comes to rolling out in “big markets” such as China, America and India.

“Because human connection is universal and you’re not just selling chocolate drinks you’re selling a human moment; that makes it relevant everywhere and hugely scalable.


Scaling at speed

Behind Knoops’ chocolate factory spirit, there is a definitive strategy for expansion.

After settling in cathedral cities to consolidate its “luxury” placement, Knoops’ next play is to open in UK shopping centres, outlet centres and eventually airports and travel hubs.

“We have a very defined property strategy to make sure we cover everywhere. But what we don’t have to do is cluster, we can open anywhere.”

Key to the brand’s potential for rapid growth is simplicity, says Gordon-Harris.

“We just sell quality chocolate and milk”. With bought-in bakery products from local “hero” businesses, the Knoop’s model doesn’t include kitchens or a multitude of ingredients.

“We can open in Manchester, or Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow. We don’t need to have a central area or clusters which means we can make a national play and establish the brand and the category very quickly”.

To build for this future growth, the company has put in a “great deal of time and money” to build the systems in advance needed to grow it out.

This includes everything from online staff training tools to AI that knows how much chocolate is needed for a weekend at the Knoops’ Knightsbridge store.

“Front of house reflects Jens’ passion for experimentation, this joyful place and behind the scenes Knoops is engineered like a Swiss watch”, Gordon-Harris says.

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