World Chocolate Day Food

Why India loves dark chocolate

Smoor Chocolates

Smoor Chocolates  

India is gradually moving away from intense milky variants towards low-sugar treats and bold flavours like sourdough, juniper berries and star anise

This weekend, Cadbury is all set to launch the first-ever milk chocolate 3D Printer in Australia. It will create chocolate ‘charms’, which includes a selection of letters and symbols, proving that there is never a dull moment in the cocoa world. Meanwhile, in India, where the country’s chocolate market stands at ₹9,000 crore and counting, Mondelēz launched a new variant of its popular Dairy Milk chocolate with 30% less sugar, last month.

On the website, they claim the new variant doesn’t rely on artificial sweeteners, colours or preservatives but instead includes more fibre.

Isle of chocolate

The Indian market today has a chocolate solution for every mood and palate, be it imported Swiss, Belgian or fairtrade bars from Madagascar, or endless choices from homegrown, single-origin bean-to-bar options. Take gourmet food supermarket Foodhall that boasts about 146 kinds of chocolates and candies, including Xocolati57, their in-house brand. CEO Jay Jhaveri says, “There is a shift towards dark chocolate variants. And vegan, organic and sugar-free varieties are popular too.” This is in line with the Asia-Pacific Chocolate Market Report 2019, which highlights the increasing demand in the country for dark and sugar-free chocolates crafted with organic ingredients.

At Foodhall, brands like Lindt (over a 100 varieties), Godiva (Belgium), Milka (Switzerland), Toblerone, and Diddier & Frank (USA) are the bestsellers. Jhaveri recommends the vegan and organic bean-to-bar range, Menakao from Madagascar, and Pacari, a single-origin bar made in Ecuador. As a nod to Japan, the food superstore has stocked up on Royce’ at two locations (Kolkata and Bengaluru).

Royce's Nama

Royce's Nama  

The brand’s Nama dark chocolates and bold flavours such as the Potatochip Chocolate have a distinct following. Brought to India in 2013 by Samir Gadhok and Avani Raheja of Burgundy Hospitality, Royce’ sources its cocoa from the World Cocoa Foundation, like other chocolatiers, complementing it with quality milk, butter and cream from Hokkaido. “We spent the first few years developing an entire market for Royce’ and establishing what is premium chocolate, its price points and location,” says Gadhok, who found that Indians are surprisingly experimental with their chocolate. With about 10 stores across six cities, and plans to launch a new Nama variant designed exclusively for India in September, he ensures that their chocolate is not left to the mercies of a supermarket shelf.

Indian players

As expected, Cadbury, synonymous with classics like the Dairy Milk and Perk in the country, continues to be a firm favourite. According to global market research experts Nielsen, the $26 billion Mondelēz International accounts for over 65% of the market share. This is followed closely by Nestle, Ferrero, Mars and Amul. Recent entrants include the 2018 launch of Hershey’s Kisses by The Hershey Company and ITC’s Fabelle Exquisite Chocolates in 2016. Initially retailing the popular Fabelle Ganache and pralines in select ITC hotels, a range of the chocolate bars are now in 400+ gourmet outlets across the country. Last year, the brand unveiled the limited-edition Fabelle Ruby Gianduja (made from ruby cocoa beans and with a light pink hue) in select boutiques. “India is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and the corresponding rise of the urban middle class has led to a rapid rise in gourmet dining options and the overall consumption of pre-packed premium food products, including chocolate,” says Anuj Rustagi, Chief Operating Officer - Chocolates, Coffee and New Categories - Food Division, ITC Limited

Texture troubles
  • According to food writer Vikram Doctor, selling dairy-based chocolate is a challenge in India simply because maintaining their texture under the right temperature is tough. “The texture is as important as flavour – something missing in most artisanal brands. Although they experiment with funky flavours, they are gritty and the texture just isn’t great,” he says. He points out that the reasons behind not getting chocolate’s texture right could include these factors: not using the right cocoa butter or not conching the chocolate correctly. Storage is also important. “Refrigerators aren’t ideal for chocolate, but air-conditioned rooms are. Cadbury, for instance, uses the Crumb technology (cocoa solids cooked with condensed milk) that give the chocolate more stability and they last fairly longer. This, however, gives it an intense milky taste – this is okay because it’s what most Indians have grown up eating.”

Craft masters in the South

That said, when it comes to the country’s bean-to-bar movement, the South appears to be in the lead. Of about 16 bean-to-bar makers operating in India, 11 are from the South, says Chennai-based L Nitin Chordia, India’s first certified cocoa and chocolate taster. They are paying close attention to quality, sourcing cacao as locally as possible, embracing sustainable processes and experimenting with regional ingredients. Chordia predicts about 40 bean-to-bar makers in India by the end of 2020. One high-profile new entrant is Kochi’s Paul & Mike (P&M) from Synthite Industries Limited (which also introduced gourmet brand Sprig back in 2014). Business head Vikas Temani observes that while the current market share of craft chocolate companies is in decimals, there is potential to grow. “In India, fine chocolates are either too expensive (Pacari or the Vietnamese Marou) or mass-produced chocolates are being passed off as fine (Lindt, Godiva),” he observes, adding that P&M aims to offer the quality of a Pacari or a Marou bar for the price of a Lindt (basic).

Why India loves dark chocolate

No stranger to exotic ingredients such as Italian Piedmont Hazelnuts and Amazonian Pink Pepper, P&M is also pairing jamun, sitaphal and Alphonso mangoes in their bars. The label is committed to becoming carbon positive by 2023. “We use refrigerants that have 99% lower greenhouse warming potential and also opt for high carbon capture techniques,” claims Temani.

In Mysuru, David Belo of Naviluna Artisan Chocolate (formerly Earth Loaf) and one of the earliest bean-to-bar players, is another fan of Kerala cocoa. Looking at sourcing cacao beans from Vietnam and Sri Lanka after the 2018 Kerala floods, he was glad that the State’s farmers he works with bounced back, and that the cacao trees survived. “This was a warning sign for us and going forward we are working with more farms in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Though their quality may not be as good as the premium Kerala beans, they can be worked on to improve quality,” says Belo, whose outfit has the capacity to churn out close to 5,000 bars a month.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  

Flavour trail

If Pascati, India's first USDA organic and fairtrade-certified chocolate maker, is combining berries with dark chocolate confections and cacao beans from Idukki, Kerala, Bengaluru’s all-day dining space, Smoor By Bliss, is now experimenting with zesty orange and star anise in its True Bars. Known for its fine couverture chocolates, the brand’s cocoa butter is sourced from Ghana, Madagascar, Ecuador, São Tomé and Príncipe.

Naviluna’s signature is their offbeat flavour pairings such as the seasonal Jamun & Rosemary, Mango, Red Capsicum & Chili and even a Mysore Pak version. “While Mysore Pak purists scoffed at our vegan version with its cacao beans, wholemeal gram flour and coconut oil instead of ghee and brown sugar over refined sugar, this was our quirky tribute to Mysuru,” says Belo. Plus, the newly-launched Juniper bar with Macedonian Juniper berries has had a helping hand from Greater Than micro batch gin from Goa.

Texture troubles
  • According to food writer Vikram Doctor, selling dairy-based chocolate is a challenge in India simply because maintaining their texture under the right temperature is tough. “The texture is as important as flavour – something missing in most artisanal brands. Although they experiment with funky flavours, they are gritty and the texture just isn’t great,” he says. He points out that the reasons behind not getting chocolate’s texture right could include these factors: not using the right cocoa butter or not conching the chocolate correctly. Storage is also important. “Refrigerators aren’t ideal for chocolate, but air-conditioned rooms are. Cadbury, for instance, uses the Crumb technology (cocoa solids cooked with condensed milk) that give the chocolate more stability and they last fairly longer. This, however, gives it an intense milky taste – this is okay because it’s what most Indians have grown up eating.”

All things dark

All of the craft brands are champions of dark chocolate — Coimbatore-based Soklet being a recent addition in 2017. Founders Karthikeyan Palanisami and Harish Manoj Kumar, who source cocoa from Kumar’s farm in the foothills of the Anamalai range, have ensured that the packaging (inspired by kanjeevaram sari borders) and ingredients like filter coffee reflect the brand’s place of origin. With 8,000-10,000 bars manufactured a month, they offer couverture baking and cooking chocolate under the brand Regal Chocolate, and among their unflavoured bars, the 82% is the darkest with unrefined sugar.

Harish Manoj Kumar (left) and Karthikeyan Palanisamy of Soklet

Harish Manoj Kumar (left) and Karthikeyan Palanisamy of Soklet  

Textile entrepreneur Palanisami says that bean-to-bar chocolate is considered healthier (with less sugar content). “Sugar is a big component in commercial chocolate, along with emulsifiers and hydrogenated fat. The sugar is 50% or more as compared to bean-to-bar chocolates. For instance, in an 82% dark bar, there’s 82% cocoa and the rest is sugar.” Commercial players produce four to five tonnes of chocolate in a single batch and it can contain cocoa from plantations across the world. The beans are chemically treated and stripped of strong cocoa flavours to get medium chocolate notes.

Belo of Naviluna says the Indian palate is more into dark chocolate now because they are accustomed to the flavour profile. “The Instagram boom between 2014 and 2019 has opened up international trends to India,” he explains. Mondelez’s new Dairy Milk variant is a reflection of market trends. “Going forward, low-sugar variants will be market movers as sugar will be the socially-ostracised ingredient,” adds Bengaluru-based brand expert Harish Bijoor, adding that “bars with fruits like cranberry, prune or macadamia nuts (catering to the health conscious) will be popular”.

Bread & Chocolate in Auroville

Bread & Chocolate in Auroville  

Fabien Bontems, co-founder and director of Auroville’s Mason & Co, agrees. Among the country’s largest bean-to-bar chocolate makers, with a presence in 100 stores across the country, their official chocolate shop and café — Bread & Chocolate — is a must visit in Puducherry. “People are conscious about healthier options and also look at where and how their chocolate is made,” says Bontems, adding, “As a vegan brand, we only make dark chocolate, and don’t use any chemicals or preservatives. All our chocolate is organic certified.” A good souvenir, if you visit, is their homage to Bread & Chocolate — the 70% Sourdough & Sea Salt bar.

 

(With inputs from Nidhi Adlakha )

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Printable version | Jun 29, 2020 3:54:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/on-world-chocolate-day-why-india-loves-dark-chocolate/article28294056.ece

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