Explained: How Indian chocolate makers are adapting to global cocoa shortages – Times of India

Explained: How Indian chocolate makers are adapting to global cocoa shortages – Times of India

The Indian chocolate industry is turning the heads of global chocolatiers. In fact, on the streets of any traditional Indian market, the aroma of freshly roasted cocoa beans wafts through the air and has become a staple smell alongside incense and spices. But a complex story unfolds for those who follow their noses to the source.

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As a nation historically associated with chai and traditional sweets, India’s relationship with chocolate has undergone a shift in recent years.The emergence of the bean-to-bar movement, coupled with changing consumer preferences, has reshaped the country’s chocolate landscape. However, this strive forward has hit a roadblock: increasing global cocoa prices.
Also Read: Bakers opt for vanilla, fruit cakes as cocoa prices rise
Understanding the Bean-to-Bar Revolution
The concept of bean-to-bar chocolate picked up pace in 2005 and became popular in India over the last decade. The idea is that small makers have taken it upon themselves to differentiate their chocolate from both mass-produced options and chocolatiers who use pre-made chocolate. These businesses handle the entire process, from procuring raw cacao beans, cleaning, roasting, cracking, winnowing, and grinding to finished bars. This method allows for experimentation with flavour profiles and showcases the unique characteristics of Indian cacao.

This hands-on approach has resonated with discerning Indian consumers, increasingly seeking high-quality, artisanal products. The movement has also sparked interest in local cacao cultivation, with regions like Kerala and Karnataka emerging as hotspots for Indian-grown cocoa.
A Global Cocoa Crisis
Owing to the widescale adoption and success of this movement, India became the home to many artisanal chocolate brands. However, there is trouble brewing in the world’s cocoa-producing regions. Major producers in the Ivory Coast and Ghana have been hit by poor crops, leading to a significant supply shortage and a sharp rise in cocoa prices on the global market.
The impact of this shortage has reverberated through the entire chocolate industry, from multinational corporations to small-scale artisans. The resulting price volatility poses a significant challenge for chocolate makers, especially in price-sensitive markets like India.
Also Read:Amazing benefits of cocoa butter
Adapting to the New Reality
Faced with this cocoa conundrum, India’s chocolate industry has been forced to innovate and adapt. Large manufacturers are employing various strategies to navigate the crisis while keeping their productsaccessible to consumers.
Leading Indian chocolate brands have implemented modest price increases of 8-10% to partially offset rising costs. More importantly, they are focusing on internal improvements – streamlining manufacturing processes, optimising product ranges, and making packaging and supply chain management more efficient. This sentiment is echoed across the industry. Many producers are reevaluating their product offerings, with a trend towards smaller portion sizes and bite-sized snacking options. This allows companies to maintain attractive price points while adjusting to the new cost realities.
On the other hand, the bean-to-bar segment, with its emphasis on quality over quantity, has found itself somewhat insulated from the worst effects of the price hike. Artisanal producers have been transparent about the need for slight price adjustments, and their loyal customer base has been largely supportive.

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Changing Consumer Tastes and Supply Chain Challenges
Interestingly, the cocoa crisis has coincided with evolving consumer preferences in India. Recent years have seen growing interest in dark chocolate, single-origin bars, and unique flavor combinations showcasing local ingredients. This shift creates opportunities for producers to focus on value-added products, commanding higher prices and helping offset increased raw material costs.
Moreover, its domestic supply chain has somewhat buffered India’s chocolate industry. The country’s cocoa production, though small by global standards, has been steadily increasing. However, it remains insufficient to meet domestic demand, necessitating imports. Balancing quality beans with cost considerations has become a delicate juggling act for many producers.
Looking Ahead
Despite these challenges, there is cautious optimism about the future. Favorable weather conditions in Africa are expected to improve cocoa supply from October onwards, potentially providing pricing relief. Meanwhile, India’s chocolate makers are doubling down on innovation, exploring alternative sweeteners and developing new flavour profiles to keep chocolate affordable and exciting for Indian consumers.
In this direction, the bean-to-bar movement has become a driving force in India’s chocolate industry, raising quality standards and fostering a deeper connection between consumers and their chocolate. As India’s chocolate journey unfolds, the industry’s resilience and creativity in facing challenges bode well for the future of Indian chocolate, from mass-produced bars to artisanal single-origin creations.
Authored by: Vimal Sharma, Founder, Director and CEO, SMOOR Chocolates
Thumb and Embed Images Courtesy: istock

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