There is something universal about the love for chocolate. Whether it be the Easter basket full of chocolate bunnies you discover as a child or a birthday gift from friends and family, the chocolate is a global and dependable hit.
Living in South Asia for the past years, specifically in India, I see that chocolate offerings, incarnations and possibilities have multiplied each year. As a child living between the US and India, the main chocolate offerings found at your local Indian neighborhood bakery (there were no supermarkets 15 years ago, just lovely bakeries!) were plain Cadbury chocolate bars, and some smaller bars offering chocolate and nuts, fruit and nuts, and multitudes of flavored toffees per the English tradition. Nothing fancy but sufficient to satisfy the sweet tooth. India is now on track to hit a chocolate market worth 5 billion by 2023 and according to a report by Modor Intelligence, 193 kg of chocolate were consumed by Indian consumers in 2017 alone! This is evident in all the major players rolling out big time in the Indian market including Mondelez, Ferrero (the company that created Nutella and Ferrero Rocher!), Hershey, Nestle, Lindt, and Mars.
What truly blew me away was the fact that India is now in the top 20 countries producing cocoa beans and Kerala is where a lot of action is happening. It turns out that cocoa beans grow well in dense rain forests and need a climate that has ample rainfall with no extreme cold temperatures which Kerala definitely does not, rarely ever straying below 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Cocoa beans also thrive well in clay and sandy soil where moisture can be maintained during the summer. On my afternoon walks I started noticing cocoa trees next to banana and coconut trees and marveled at their dark, glossy leaves. It is no wonder that there are a growing number of bean to bar chocolate entrepreneurs in India. And these growers are creating artisan chocolates, not your every day chocolate but using hints of nutmeg, cardamom, and natural vanilla grown in South India. Bean to bar makers, according to an article in the Economic Times in Feb 2019, are set to grow 250% over the next couple years. Indian consumers, as is seen in the global markets, also seem to care more about sustainability and the use of local products giving rise to new generation of chocolatiers using pink pepper and custard apple in these gourmet one of a kind bars. Hey, maybe I could too be a cocoa farmer one day and catch this exciting trend!
So the essential question is why is chocolate so timeless? Why is that babies to older grandmas and grandpas crack a big smile when they indulge in this sweet all over the world? Stay tuned for a next article in this series where I explore this further, but I would love to know what drives you readers to like or not like "chocolat"!