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Thorntons Ltd
Limited company
Industry food industry   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Founded Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England (1911;109 years ago (1911))
FounderJoseph William Thornton
Headquarters Alfreton, Derbyshire, England
Number of locations
Decrease2.svg 87 (plus franchise shops (109), and six cafes) [1]
RevenueDecrease2.svg £135 million (2018)
Decrease2.svg£38.3 million (2018)
Decrease2.svg£22.9 million (2018)
Owner Ferrero
Number of employees
Decrease2.svg 2,634 [2]

Thorntons is a British chocolate brand, which was established by Joseph William Thornton and his father, in 1911. The company has been owned by the Italian firm Ferrero since June 2015, in the sale at £112m. [3] A net loss, in its annual report of 2016, was £30.8 million, the result prompting a drop in staff and shops nationwide.


Since Cadbury became part of the wider food group, Thorntons has the largest confectionery only parent company in Britain. It has established toffee and fudge lines, but the group shifted its specialism, after post war rationing ended into chocolate, especially its wide Continental, Swiss and Belgian chocolate sets, which form the bulk of sales. [2] [4]

Through the financial year of 2017 to 2018, sales and production increased; and few shops have been opened, and some diversified into cafés. [2]

Reducing its need for fixed capital kept in its own shares, as is common for subsidiaries, the company reverted to a private limited company in English corporate law, in November 2016, receives notices in group to its registered office in Greenford, outer West London, retaining its main office and production, in an old town in Amber Valley, between Derby and Sheffield. [5]


The Thornton Family

This outlet plays on the brand's long history, being in a small, decorative tram shelter, in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, Hampshire. (2008) Thorntons Tram Shelter.jpg
This outlet plays on the brand's long history, being in a small, decorative tram shelter, in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, Hampshire. (2008)

Thorntons began in Sheffield in 1911, the business being started by Joseph William Thornton, who co opened the company's first shop, at 159 Norfolk Street. Norman, his son, became the manager, at the age of just 15. Peter Thornton (grandson of the founder) served as chairman of Thorntons, but was dismissed in June 1987. [6]

2000s – Trading Difficulties

After rapid expansion, the results of 2009 showed turnover increasing to £214.8 million, but operating profit decreasing to £7.94 million. A perennial seasonality, in sales, disappointed strategists and employees. 35% of the sales were in the seven week period before Christmas, and 10%, shortly before Easter Sunday.

The scale of impact of this, on manufacturing and service, are more pronounced than the average in the food sector, necessitating temporary staffing. Jonathon Hart joined the business, as chief executive officer, in January 2011. Following another resultant strategic review, in June 2011, Thorntons announced it would close between 120 and 180, of its shops. [7] [8]

It was announced in June 2015, that chocolate producer Ferrero would buy Thorntons, for £112 million. [9] Thorntons Ltd are 75% owned by Ferholding UK Ltd, which, in turn, is controlled by Giovanni Ferrero (who holds over 50% of voting rights).[ citation needed ]

Hollow and solid cats, rabbits and seasonal shapes by the company, often have fine white, or dark chocolate details. (2008) Thorntonscat.jpg
Hollow and solid cats, rabbits and seasonal shapes by the company, often have fine white, or dark chocolate details. (2008)


The current, main advertising slogans are:

Thorntons set up a very rare edible billboard, on 3 April 2007, which exceeded four metres length; 14.5 by 9.5 ft (4.4 by 2.9 m) and 390 kg (860 lb) it was framed outside their shop in Covent Garden, London, and was eaten, within the space of just three hours. [12] The structure included ten chocolate bunnies, seventy two giant chocolate eggs, and 128 chocolate panels, each weighing 2 kg (4.4 lb).

The promotion sought to regain lost custom to competition, and a move away from deluxe chocolate gifts, in recent festive sales, as well as poor sales over the summer of 2006.

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  1. Official Store Locator Thorntons plc. Retrieved 16 May 2020
  2. 1 2 3 A minority of sales is in novelties, decoration and café outlet remittances.Full accounts made up to the 31st August 2018 Thorntons Ltd Annual Report 2018|Companies House. Retrieved 16 May 2020
  3. Sarah Butler. "Thorntons bought by Ferrero for £112m". The Guardian.
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  5. [ Companies House - beta development site at - full company details of co. no. 00174706
  6. "Thorntons – My Life in the Family Business". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  7. Danaher, Tim (28 June 2011). "Thorntons to slash number of company-owned stores". Retail Week (
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  9. Farrell, Sean (22 June 2015). "Thorntons bought by Ferrero for £112m". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  10. "Chocolate Heaven Since 1911" . Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  11. "Bringing sweet news to Thorntons" . Retrieved 17 August 2017.
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