To cater to the demanding Indian clientele, chocolatiers and chocolate manufacturing companies are constantly searching for the best ingredients that local and global markets have to offer By Rituparna Chatterjee
We all love chocolates. But the idea of a chocolate varies from person to person. Some like the bitter dark variety, some like the bitter sweet milk chocolate while some drool over embellished chocolates. Be it of any shape, size or appearance, what is of significance are the ingredients that go into giving these sweet delicacies a unique taste. From South American or African coffee beans to Swiss milk and locally sourced Indian spices, chocolatiers and chocolate manufacturing companies across the country are importing the best ingredients from across the world so as to create various innovative chocolate products, all to satisfy the demanding Indian consumer. “It is clear that the end customers are not only looking for exotic ingredients, but they are also interested to know what goes into the product and the story behind the product,” states Dhiren Kanwar, country head, Puratos India adding that the consumer’s curiosity to know the story has forced chocolate makers to focus extensively on research. “We do extensive consumer research and we found that consumers in emerging markets are more open and like experimenting as compared to matured markets. We share such research with our customers which help them to develop exciting varieties of chocolate products,” he adds.
Changing consumer’s preference and lifestyle, eating habits, and their global exposure to international brands have led to higher sales for the Indian chocolate industry, which registered a growth of 15 per cent per annum from 2008 to 2012 and is expected to grow at CAGR 23 per cent by volume between the years 2013-2018 and reach 3,41,609 tons according to a report ‘India Chocolate Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018’ published by TechSci Research. The chocolate industry is usually segmented by the type of ingredients used to produce chocolates. This includes dark, milk and white chocolates. Milk chocolate is the most popular category contributing 75 per cent to the total sales of chocolates, followed by white chocolate (16 per cent) and dark chocolate (nine per cent), stated the report.
The increase in chocolate consumption in India and other developing countries over the recent years has lead to an increased demand for cocoa in the global market. Though India grows cocoa trees, it is not amongst the top cocoa growers in the world. “Cocoa trees need a high temperature, plenty of water and air that is always moist. As far as India’s demographics is concerned, it is a country with very pronounced humid tropics and hence cocoa plantations, in early 70’s were introduced as a mixed crop due to its commercial importance. It is cultivated as an understory intercrop with sufficient shade in the southern states of India, albeit with not too much ease. Off the total cocoa production in our country, 1/3rd of it is produced singularly by Tamil Nadu,” states Chef Varun Inamdar, founder, The Chocolate Factory Ecuador. As a result of this quality difference from its global counterparts, chocolatiers and chocolate manufacturing companies choose to import cocoa from international markets. “We manufacture our base chocolates with the finest Ecuadorian chocolates only. To be more specific, we only create chocolates processed from the Criollo beans grown in South America. We import these to create our signature line under our brand The Chocolate Factory Ecuador,” opines Chef Inamdar adding that though the base is imported, the flavours are indigenous and sourced locally. “They are a mark of what every Indian would identify with. From a masala chai to Guntur red chilly, to as striking as blueberry cumin and strawberry vanilla, the range says it all,” he adds.
As for other ingredients like milk and chocolate compounds, Mumbai-based chocolate manufacturer Chocolove imports a few of them and also buys from the local market. “We use both locally sourced compound and Belgian couverture in our products. But what makes them different is the different caramels we use with our chocolate. The ingredients used in the caramel are local. The chocolate and the caramel compliment each other. We have always been using imported ingredients for the chocolate/ compound, but today because of the restrictions in imports, the chocolate industry is facing a challenge,” states Vedika Bajaj, founder, Chocolove. Further aggravating this situation is the increasing cocoa prices which have climbed to the highest level in more than two years. “The beans used to make chocolate rose two per cent to a high of US$ 2,844 per metric ton on ICE Futures. US cocoa prices reached the highest level in almost 25 months as a weaker dollar spurred buying of the beans,” reasons Chef Inamdar. However, these challenges can still be overcome if we have the technological know-how asserts Kanwar.
“In India we can import these ingredients in a limited way, but the opportunity is in producing in India with the know-how (technology). Puratos started producing in India in 2013. Having this knowledge within the group helped us in producing better tasting products. Today we produce in more than 15 countries in the world and are considered the taste leaders in the market wherever we are selling,” he states.
A latest trend that has set its foot in the India market is the increasing demand for dark and sugar free chocolates. People are aware of the benefits of dark chocolate and have developed a taste for it. Hence chocolate manufacturers are introducing medicinal and organic ingredients while manufacturing chocolates so as to remain active in the market.
“There is a growing awareness for ingredients which takes care of wellness and we have various international certifications for chocolates. One of our products Oxanti, which is a chocolate with high antioxidant power delivers great taste and wellness. However the demand for such a product is yet to evolve in India but we might see some demand in the future,” mentions Kanwar.
Another interesting trend is the shifting focus from Africa to Vietnam for sourcing ingredients. “As demand for high-quality chocolate rises globally and supply from traditional producers fail due to aging tree stock and other issues, the industry is eying Vietnam as a new supplier. Vietnamese chocolate has a different flavour profile and the beans are very nuanced from the African bean which makes it stand out in the market. I am keen to start experimenting with these soon,” states Chef Inamdar adding that strong cocoa deliveries in Ghana and Ivory Coast are reducing global shortage forecasts for the season, almost by 33 per cent. Moreover, customers are also looking beyond blocks and chips in the market and are trying to find value added chocolate products. These could be in form of fillings, coatings, inclusions and decoration. “We are currently studying the consumer market closely and in future we will bring in these unique ingredients to help our customers to be more successful in their business,” reveals Kanwar.