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Abbey Gate College Pupils Turn Confectionery Creators in ‘Dragon’s Den’ Competition

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Pupils at a Chester primary school swapped the classroom for the boardroom as they pitched their creative chocolate confections to retail, chocolate and packaging design experts.

Year 5 pupils from Aldford School, the Junior and Infant department of Abbey Gate College in Chester, presented their concepts for a new chocolate bar following weeks spent conducting market research, brainstorming ideas, designing products, pricing ingredients and practising pitches as part of their Business Studies coursework.

The attendant ‘dragons’ comprised staff from FMCG packaging experts Equator Design, retailer The Co-operative and chocolate manufacturer Thorntons. The presentation took place in the top floor executive boardroom of the Co-operative Support Centre in Manchester.

Gary Flynn, Managing Director, Equator Design, Manchester, says: “I’ve amassed 35 years of design, packaging and print knowledge in the industry, so there isn’t much I haven’t seen before. But children always have the capacity to surprise and innovate and their chocolate bar packaging design concepts were exceptional.

Howard Wright, Creative Director, Equator Design, who took part in the project with the school children, adds: “The winning chocolate bar concept included popping candy and was aptly named ‘Magma Bar’. The team at Thorntons kindly agreed to manufacture samples of the winning team’s chocolate bar and we took the children’s original packaging design and developed it so it’s ready for retail. The finished product looks and tastes great and all credit to the children as it wouldn’t look amiss on the shelves in the confectionery aisle of your local Co-op.”

Other ‘dragons’ included Calum Kirk from Food Retail Buying at The Co-operative and Jennifer Bull from Thorntons. Calum says: “This project has been a massive success and it has been a great way for ourselves, Equator and Thorntons to engage with young people. The pupils have had a chance to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world, getting feedback from professionals whose everyday jobs involve what the pupils have been doing. Their efforts have been exemplary and seeing their presentations in the boardroom was the icing on the cake.”

Rebecca Findlay, Head of Aldford School, says: ” I wish to highlight the value of a day like today for the pupils. They were slightly in awe of the whole situation - many of them never even having experienced being inside an office before but they were also inspired. The buzz and chatter on the bus on the way home was fantastic as many of the pupils discussed their favourite part, the pitches, and what they want to do when they are older.

“I am a strong believer that children need to be exposed to many different experiences and opportunities to support their learning and therefore, to be supported by The Cooperative, Equator and Thorntons was amazing. The staff and I are fully aware of what a special opportunity this has been.”

Equator Design specialises in branded packaging solutions for some of the UK’s best known high street retailers. Gary Flynn continues: “Ninety five per cent of towns and cities in the UK now have a store carrying work produced by Equator - from The Cooperative to Aldi, Nisa to Next. I expect most people will have, at some point, bought products where the packaging has been design by Equator. Our work is everywhere!”

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Pie Corbett