Chennai: Actress Kalki Koechlin is a die-hard fan of Auroville-based organic chocolate brand Mason & Co. Mozart of Madras AR Rahman has invited Pondicherry-based chocolate brand Zuka to move into her music conservatory KM. Tourists who flock to Kodaikanal seek out Caesar’s brand of homemade chocolates. Ooty alumni swear by King Star. Tamil Nadu is fast becoming a hub for bean-to-bar chocolate brands. These brands and others such as Kocoatrait offer fresh flavors, single origin, organic cocoa, eco-friendly packaging (no plastic) and artisanal production to new age customers who want more than cookie-cutter brands. room.
With lockdown forcing people to seek out both fresh and sustainable food brands, TN’s bean-to-bar brigade has seen a significant surge in demand. Nitin Chordia, founder of Kocoatrait, a bean-to-bar startup, says online sales have tripled during the pandemic. “We brought in new customers without spending a dime on paid advertising.”
India’s artisan chocolate market of 15,000,000 bar beans has been growing steadily over the past 4-5 years. Mansi Reddy, Director (Marketing), Mason & CO, says, “We pioneered the bean-to-bar movement in India and have been making Indian-origin chocolate for eight years now. When we started we were the only company in this space, now there are over 15.”
“Currently, India is one of the fastest growing markets for chocolates, whether in the industrial or artisanal sector,” says Srinath Balachandran, MD, Zuka.
Part of the reason this segment appeals to new-age clientele is its enduring and vocal positioning for local. “We make organic dark chocolate from beans of Indian origin sourced directly from farmers and cooperatives in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka,” says Reddy of Mason & Co. For Kocoatrait, the vegan fruit and nuts and offbeat flavors such as jasmine, jaggery, red rose, mor milagai and masala chai worked well.
As for Zuka, Balachandran and his team worked on dairy-free chocolate. “A lot of dark chocolates are made with milk fat, and many chocolate companies use the same machines to process milk and dark chocolate,” says Balachandran. “We work to create chocolate without any traces of dairy, making it suitable for vegans,” he says.
Artisan chocolate brands depend on word of mouth and social media. Arun Vijaay Malli, who runs the Ten Degrees restaurant in Kodaikanal, swears by local chocolate brand Caesar’s. “They are so good that I resell them not only in my restaurant but also in my gourmet shop Cheese Corner in Madurai,” he says. Tourists come for homemade artisan brands and Caesar’s now has cult status, he adds.
King Star has been in business in Ooty for 80 years. Third-generation chocolatier J Vivek, who runs Jai’s King Star Chocolate Factory on Ooty’s Commercial Street, says: “The chocolate factory was started in 1942 by my grandfather J Thambusamy, who worked at M/s Carter Confectionery in the late from the 1930s. is an age-old British formula and the tools used are made in England. “The King Star brand offers over 40 varieties of chocolates and is a favorite of locals as well as tourists.
Mason & Co has its own outlets, Bread & Chocolate, in Alwarpet, on OMR and in Auroville and Pondicherry.
(With contributions from Shantha Thiagarajan in Ooty)