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Top Hot Choc: Carole Armitage

About 3 weeks ago, I came across a website with a product called 80 Noir Ultra.

After being intrigued and wanting to know more, I reached out to the founder Carole Armitage, to talk things through.

We talked about, chocolate, health and growing a business, all by yourself.

Get cozy for this one.

Article written by Claudia Lee, Founder of NEXUS. Speaking with Carole Armitage Founder of 80 NoirUltra.

How The Love Affair Began

Carole's love for chocolate began at a young age when she was struggling with low blood sugar and pressure levels, and her mother gave her hot chocolate as a remedy.

From that point on, Carole associated chocolate with well-being and used it as a recovery drink after playing badminton.

“I never really liked hot chocolate, it was always too sweet. You know, there's only so much sugar you actually do need.”

As she grew older and moved into investment banking, she continued to use chocolate as a way to boost her energy levels and cope with mental health challenges.

However, Carole quickly realized that not all hot chocolates were created equal.

She spent years searching for the perfect one and thanks to her work, was able to travel around the world to find it. Along the way, she discovered how people from different cultures and environments revered chocolate in various ways. For instance, a mountain climber would prefer a thick and dark hot chocolate to provide them with energy, while someone coming from a dive would prefer a weaker, cherry-flavoured drink.

The Sugar Craze

Despite her love for chocolate, Carole also recognized that many people viewed it as an indulgence or guilty treat. People often associated chocolate with high calories and sweetness, which led them to opt for milk chocolate rather than dark chocolate, even though dark chocolate is better for them.

Carole acknowledged that the bitterness of dark chocolate can be an acquired taste, much like coffee, but it is worth it for the health benefits.

“So many people accommodate coffee and the bitterness of coffee. You know, you've trained yourself to like the bitterness of coffee, but because in people's minds chocolate is a luxury. They're not prepared to cope with the fact that chocolate dark chocolate is better.”

The Burnout That Ignited The Flame

She spoke about how things began to change when investment banking got too much to handle.

“So basically I got to one of my burnouts and ended up on a retreat. And it was one of those weird silent retreats. Where in the evening you would go from eight o'clock at night till eight in the morning, everything would be silent.”

This change in her daily life made her rethink so much.

“I think in between that time I had so many epiphanies and obviously it was in silence I was not being able to tell anybody. But then I realised what it was that I wanted to do and that I just really needed to just get away from what I was doing.”

The First Moves

After resigning from her job in the corporate world and going back to contracting, she started training as a personal trainer and wellness consultant.

During this time, she also became interested in the scientific and technical side of chocolate, learning about tempering, bonding, and understanding chocolate from a technical perspective.

“Well, I want to create my own chocolate. And so they pointed me in their direction. And I think it was about four months later that I was off to Paris. And spent the whole day testing out, or eating rather than testing, all the different types of cacao.”

Despite her initial doubts about whether she would know if she had created the right flavor, one stood out and she ordered 500 kilos of it on a gut feel.

The Feedback

Carole tested her chocolate on friends and in the sporting arena, where she found that people fell into two different camps. Some were looking for something that would add to their nutrition and fuel, and they understood the benefits of dark chocolate. Others were used to sugary hot chocolate and were initially shocked by the taste of pure dark chocolate.

Carole's goal is to educate people about the luxury of pure dark chocolate and to show them that they can enjoy it every day. She wants to break the preconceived notion that hot chocolate must be sugary and show people that they can have a luxury hot chocolate without all the added sugar.

The history of hot chocolate is steeped in luxury and healing, with ancient civilizations like the Mayans, Aztecs, and Olmecs using it for strength and as a currency. However, over time, the quality of chocolate has decreased while the amount of sugar added has increased.

80 NoirUltra has 90% less sugar than any leading hot chocolate on the market, making it a healthier option for people looking to reduce their sugar intake. As the world faces a growing obesity epidemic, with estimates suggesting that 175 million people will be morbidly obese by 2027.

Carole's approach to hot chocolate is “not about reinventing the wheel or starting a new revolution,” but rather returning to the roots of the drink and reclaiming its status as a luxury healing drink.

“When you've got 60% of the population drinking hot chocolate, and we're 90% less sugar than any leading hot chocolate on the market. It's kind of a no-brainer. In that sense.”

Success, And The Feeling Of It

I asked her how it felt having gone through many different business’s what was her feeling towards things now being received well.

“If I'm brutally honest, is still a bit of a shock. I distinctly remember the first time I ever received an order and it wasn't an order from somebody that I knew.

It was a random stranger in the world that ordered online and I did a little jig.

And, when orders come through now I'm still doing that little jig because it's so exciting to know that someone that you don't know, has seen your company seen your brand and just taken an interest in it and gone oh, I want to try this.”

I asked did it feel daunting to start your own business, as many would feel that, if they had been in her shoes.

“Um, this is gonna sound really odd, but I didn't actually think that this was daunting, it I genuinely felt like it was something I had to do. I always felt like a square peg in a round hole in my other roles.

It never really sat well. And I always knew that I needed to create something and be better than what I was actually doing. So it felt like a natural transition to actually once I'd realised that chocolate was the way forward, it felt normal to go to that.”

What kind of chocolate is your favorite?

  • Dark 90% +

  • Dark 75% +

  • Milk

  • White

Her Future Plans

She as big plans for the future of 80 Noir Ultra. After attending the food trade shows, she has decided to focus on two key areas: distribution within the UK and expanding into the GCC area (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai).

Carole recognizes the potential of the GCC market as an emerging one, and plans to target hotels specifically, offering her hot chocolate as a luxurious addition to minibars and bedrooms.

One concept Carole is particularly excited about is a nut-free hot chocolate that still captures the nutty flavor, appealing to those with nut allergies. She also plans to target hotels with a healthy sleep concepts, places that are recognizing the importance of well-being and the perfect night's sleep to their guests. She sees a gap in the hotel world - the lack of a mindful moment in minibars - and aims to fill it with her hot chocolate as a healthier and more relaxing alternative to sugary drinks.

80 Noir Ultra will be launching in Australia to reach around 140 shops, after Easter.

She also touched on one other thing in which her goal is to become a sponsor or supporter of the Winter Olympics in 2026, seeing a natural synergy between sport, hot chocolate, and winter.

Final Thoughts From Me

Carole's approach is not about reinventing the wheel, but rather rediscovering the true potential of hot chocolate as a healing, strengthening, and luxurious drink.

It was lovely speaking with Carole, and I can’t wait to see what happens for 80 NoirUltra, over the coming months.

Bottoms up!

Visit Carole's store here: 80 Noir Ultra


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