World Chocolate Day 2021: Chocolate. The word itself brings comfort and joy. Now adding the word luxury to it, and it’s like being transported to a whole new blissful world with refined, superior chocolate that has been made with about as much care as our love for eating it. Chocolate has traversed the path from being a dessert to being a comfort food among users, especially so amid the coronavirus pandemic. This love for chocolate and its diverse consumption patterns are now forcing luxury chocolate makers to bring in innovation at every step of the way.
A visible proof of this consumer-driven change can be seen in the fact that Indian luxury chocolate brand SMOOR has launched a collection that focuses on boosting the immunity of the consumers by incorporating ingredients like turmeric, pumpkin seeds, Tulsi, Giloy, Amla and Ashwagandha.
Talking to Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan, Founder-Director and CEO of SMOOR, Vimal Sharma, spoke about the changes in chocolate consumption patterns witnessed during the pandemic. He said, “We have seen overall growth in consumption during this period. This can be driven by two factors. Firstly, we definitely have acquired new customers, which has provided a fillip to sales numbers. Secondly, we have also seen a positive change in consumer behaviour in the sense that people are embracing chocolates as a snacking option.”
The chocolate industry as a whole is a fast growing market in India, and as Indians travelled abroad and understood about premium or luxury chocolates, it paved the way for the country to have its own premium chocolate market. While products in the luxury chocolate market in India were initially dependent solely on imports, like those from Italian company Ferrero’s Ferrero Rocher and US-based The Hershey Company’s Hershey’s, the market is now witnessing an increase in indigenous luxury chocolate brands, with even dairy giant Amul entering the market.
The fact that consumers have been more health conscious during the pandemic is also a major driving factor as to why a lot of major luxury chocolate brands are bringing in ranges with dark chocolate.
Talking about the impact of increased consciousness about fitness and health on chocolate, Vimal said, “The growing focus on fitness and health has definitely had a positive impact on our brand and business. We have seen a rise in the consumption of dark chocolates, which are considered healthy. In desserts, we have seen growth, albeit the portion size has come down along with demand for less sugar and fruits in cakes.”
A glimpse of the importance of luxury chocolate in India can be understood from the fact that it is a Rs 3,000 crore industry, and while the chocolate industry as a whole is growing at 18%, the growth of the premium chocolate industry is being recorded at a much higher 32%.
Luxury chocolate is a relatively new term in the chocolate industry in India, and so is the variety of chocolates – like dark, white and milk chocolates. However, when it comes to food, India has always loved to adopt and adapt to new products fairly quickly. Up until a few years ago, chocolate was simply considered unhealthy due to it being mainly available as a dessert or in the form of milk chocolates.
However, now, this perception seems to be changing as the adoption and consumption of dark chocolate – which is considered healthier because of higher cocoa content – seems to be increasing. This is also why many of the new luxury chocolate brands in India and abroad are bringing in more and more products based on dark chocolate. With consumers themselves choosing the healthier of the options available, it is natural that the chocolate industry would also up its efforts in the healthy snacking department. And these efforts are likely to pay off, as well, if the initial positive response received by SMOOR is anything to go by.
What’s even more exciting is the scope for experimentation that the industry has over the next few years, especially in India. Indian luxury chocolate companies are working on low capital, especially when compared to Europe and Australia, and this gives brands operating in India a much better edge.
The changing lifestyle of consumers and the growing awareness regarding chocolate and its implications on health is driving luxury chocolate brands to actively work on their offerings. It seems like it is only a matter of time before a wide range of healthy chocolate snacks would be available for consumers who are ever-ready to try out the next new innovation involving chocolates.