For any joyous occasions, our signature and easier way of celebrating it would be with chocolates; Sad and need a mood-lifter? Have a bar of chocolate! The smell and heavenly taste of chocolates has been sweet nectar for all of us. And for the chocolate industry in India, there hasn't been a sweeter time than this - a fledgling chocolate movement is blossoming across the country. "The chocolate growth in India is growing rapidly. There are many factors that have led to this change. The biggest factor is people choosing chocolates over traditional Indian sweets for gifting during festivals and occasions" explains Ishan Pansuria, founder and curator at Toska Chocolates, a bean to bar chocolate brand.
The Indian chocolate movement might have found its spotlight now, but it has been the efforts of many years to help farmers get a better price for their produce, satisfy the consumer's sweet tooth in a healthier way and years after now, we are at a position where the designers of these crafted chocolate bars are met with appreciation from far and wide. As more and more chocolatiers, crafted chocolate brands make their rise in the country, what sets these chocolates different?
The Flavour Magic:
Maybe, you saw these chocolates making their first appearances in cafes, organic food malls before they made their appearance in your nearest online stores as well. These chocolates contain a high cocoa percentage and usually in funky wraps that immediately catch your attention. Devansh Ashar, Founder of Pascati, India's first USDA Organic and Fair-Trade chocolate brand reasons out, "The willingness of the Indian consumer to experiment as well as growing disposable, dual incomes make the urban Indian want to try unique products with their eclectic flavours. The Indian palate now loves to try out global tastes and flavour combinations."
If you were to list out a regular dark chocolate flavour, it would be usually the regulars involving cranberries, fruit and nut. Now, exotic flavours like masala chai, Hawaiian hibiscus in these new chocolates immediately make you intrigued. Developing flavours is both art and craft. To this, Mr Nitin L Chordia, India's first chocolatier and founder of the world's first zero-waste chocolate - Kocoatrait adds, "Consumers are now well-travelled, aware of international trends, more open to trying new flavours and have increased exposure to various cuisines. These never seen before flavours are a testament to the fact that the Indian chocolate consumer's preference is changing. This creates an opportunity for bean to bar chocolate makers to extend their range beyond the obvious. Moreover, smaller-scale production batches enable bean to bar chocolate makers to create and launch with agility and more easily as compared to the mass market chocolate makers."
Kocoatrait's best-selling flavours include jasmine, red rose, mor milagai whereas Pascati's best-selling includes raspberry hibiscus, blueberry walnut, paan among others. All of these enjoyed flavours include a mix of staple indigenous and an acquired enhanced taste that one would love to have a hint in their daily lives. The market shelves are getting popularised with Indian craft chocolates.
As this new culture and interest booms, these clutches of small home-grown brands are spearheading the move towards fine chocolate. The country's increasing number of craft chocolates has created a new unique way of Indians consuming these delights. Of course, giant brands like Cadbury, Ferrero Rocher continues to play their domain, but the newly engineered chocolates are on the role in delving into a new chocolate economy. Nitin assures, "The market, of course, has evolved and welcomes speciality products (like coffee, chocolates etc) more openly. However, we must note that it is not profitable for established giants like Cadbury's etc to focus on this small segment and it is not profitable for bean to bar chocolate makers to focus on that segment and consumers."
The "Bean To Bar" Chocolate Concept:
As gen -Z, I grew up with Cadbury, Amul chocolates and never, maybe, anyone in India was introduced to the concept of "bean to bar" chocolates. Indian craft chocolates were not present at those times. Slowly by the end of the 2010s, the concept of "bean to bar" chocolates came into being with many brands crafting their own chocolate bars with sustainability as a major trait. These brands are now growing at an unprecedented pace.
Explaining their difference from the regular chocolates, Devansh says, "A lot of chocolates available commercially are mass made from semi-finished chocolate (bought off the shelf) to finished products. Some are even compounds (contain palm oil/hydrogenated vegetable fat, little to no cacao butter content, more sugar content than cocoa). Also, to maintain the taste of the chocolate, every commercially available brand alkalises its cocoa to strip".
A bean to bar chocolate brand changes this very notion. He adds, "Bean to Bar chocolate literally means chocolate processed from bean all the way to bar, i.e. from raw to finished product, made in small batches. Not all chocolates are a bean to bar." Mr Nitin says that many brands do not start processing cocoa beans. They simply buy bulk chocolate and melt them into moulds to make a chocolate bar. These are called chocolatiers and must be differentiated from "Bean to Bar" chocolate makers who control the entire process themselves.
Improvements in the quality of chocolate have contributed to refining the consumer palate. Since time immemorial, this dark chocolate has been perceived to be good for the heart and we have shifted to this chocolate type, giving rise to more dark chocolate variants, vegan, organic and sugar-free varieties. Recalling a similar inspiration to start Toska chocolates, Ishan shares, "I have always been a fan of dark chocolates since my childhood. My father used to travel abroad a lot and always used to get me these amazing dark chocolates. When I used to look for such quality in Indian markets, I couldn't find it. There's a myth in India that 'Dark Chocolates are bitter in Taste". But actually, only bad dark chocolates which are made with bad cocoa beans are bitter in taste. I always had this idea in my mind to start my own chocolate company to make good quality dark chocolates."
Yes, you can blame the quality of cocoa beans that made chocolates feel compromised and not crafted according to the standards. Mr Nitin remarks, " Most of the impressions are from those early days in the industry. However, a lot has changed since then. The genetic variety of cacao available in India might still be limiting and restricts bean to bar chocolate makers from achieving the required balance between delicate flavour notes, astringency, acidity and bitterness. We are now able to control both the post-harvesting to achieve more balanced cacao and control a lot at the chocolate processing stage." Crafted chocolates made with carefully selected cocoa beans gives a satisfying taste to satisfy the customer's enhanced palate. A lot of good quality chocolate brands have entered the market now and people who are enjoying these chocolates are coming back for more.
The Steady Stream Of Crafted Chocolate Brands:
The consistent taste of these mass made chocolates has been our go-to but has now led to a saturation point for the Indian consumer. But like any other growing business, these crafted chocolates in order of production of fine quality has their own set of challenges. Devansh notifies, "The supply chain of quality cacao is poor in India. A big reason for this is very little education on fermentation and drying at the farm level."
For most craft-makers, the biggest challenges have been logistics and even weather. Logistics in a tropical country do not make it easy to move the chocolate around. Indian weather has been synonymous with creating issues with transportation and the pandemic added to it. "Skyrocketing costs of logistics post-COVID have been a point of concern," adds Devansh. However, Nitin seems to have found a silver lining in the growing challenges, "To address the weather challenges during production, we have simply recreated a European environment with temperature and humidity control in our finishing room. As far as logistics is concerned, we have used single-use plastic-free insulated packaging and learnt to use the most efficient route panning to get the chocolates delivered overnight to consumers across large cities regularly."
While there are patrons who love to indulge in bites of this crafted chocolate, the high-quality, précised methods eventually can lead to these chocolates having a higher price than a regular bar of chocolate. "The biggest challenge has been the MRP of the chocolate which is 8 to 10 times higher than a commercial brand and sometimes customers fail to understand the difference and doesn't appreciate the craft." shares Ishan. None of the craft-makers can, naturally, claim to compete with the already-in reign brands and they don't even see them as competitors. There is not much of an overlap between their consumers and "bean to bar" consumers.
These are signature chocolates that are specially crafted according to an enhanced individual's taste. That's where these crafted chocolate products come in and enjoy their own base. It's a happy chocolate bar that your parents won't scold you for indulging in it, thanks to its nutritional values too.Comments
(Also Read: 4 Chef-Approved Classic Eid Desserts To Savour This Festive Season)