Most people have the odd bar of chocolate every now and then, but Katy Patino, once spent six hours eating the much-loved sweet - and it was all part of the job. The 41-year-old from St Albans is essentially the Willy Wonka for M&S, who designs, travels and most importantly tastes the next big trends in the sweet-making industry.

Katy, who spoke to us in between flying back from Paris and going out to Barcelona, describes herself as product developer, who specifically looks after Christmas and Easter chocolate and confectionery creations.

The mother of two says: “We spend our lives eating chocolate. I love chocolate, always have, even before this job. - when we went out I would look at the desserts first before the main course. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but because of the amount of chocolate that I look after I do crave cheese and onion crisps.

“We all travel a lot through our job. We have suppliers abroad so we are always visiting factories. We make sure we go every year – for chocolate, for Easter, which is what we are working on now for next year, and we’ve looked around in London as there are some amazing places on our doorstep.

“But last week I did go to Paris – again looking at chocolate for Easter and on Monday and Tuesday I went to Barcelona. Barcelona, particularly for Easter is a real centre of excellence.”

Katy, who lived in Bushey for five years before moving to St Albans, adds the inspiration behind this year’s Easter egg designs, in particularly the cosmic themes and lattice overlays, actually came from Barcelona. “The cosmic egg this year has probably been the most intricate”, she says. “It had to be the right temperature before it could be taken out the mould. The golden egg truffles were made separately and hand-sprayed and then you have to add more gold into the main egg when it’s dried. Then it’s a matter of attaching the truffles into the holes of the main egg, which again is done by hand.

“And the biggest challenge is getting it into the stores and making sure everything is where it should be. That is always the most challenging part of this role.

“But the designs and where the inspiration comes from changes every year,” she explains, “We work with consultants and we have a trends team, who advise us on new openings, centres of excellence and places we should travel to. Just before Christmas I went to New York and another team went to Japan, so we are always looking for the next big thing.

“For Easter next year we have only just started looking. There’s a trend for small and beautiful eggs as oppose to being huge. There’s a trend for family sharing – it’s time when families do get together. In terms of techniques and finishes, there has been some really beautiful, high shine, highly coloured eggs, by chocolatiers in Paris so expect to see something similar elsewhere.”

Aside from travelling and finding the latest trends, Katy says she often gets samples sent in where people experiment with different flavours with chocolate. Speaking about her strangest chocolate experience, she says:”We once got a chocolatey, gastronomic selection and they had done so much work on so many different flavours.

“But the weirdest one was a sundried tomato, basil and olive oil flavoured chocolate and it tasted like pizza. It was very strange and not one that we selected to go forward. That is probably the worst chocolate I’ve ever had.”

The connoisseur of confection adds: “I’m not a fan of marzipan that’s just my personal taste. There’s not much doesn’t go well with chocolate. In the range that we have just launched for summer, which is all about the best of south American flavours, we have combined jalapenos and tortillas with really lovely dark chocolate and we’ve put corn in the chocolate. There’s so many things, you don’t automatically think that will work with chocolate but really does.

“One of my favourite ones that I recently tasted was liquorice coated in chocolate. It’s absolutely delicious. But then again I love liquorice and I love chocolate. And the two together are fantastic.”

Katy, who graduated with a degree in Business Studies, originally started working for M&S in the clothing department. The food-lover says although she doesn’t have a specific food qualification, the biggest thing you need for a job like hers is passion and drive to work in such an industry.

“My children love chocolate,” she adds, “but of course in moderation. And I try to have a healthy diet - I may not go to the gym, but I am pretty active. Most of the time I am a taxi for my football mad son, and horse mad daughter, who I also go jogging with sometimes.”