By Dheeraj Talreja*

 Demand for premium chocolates is at an all-time high, primarily driven by the wave of artisan chocolate producers putting more emphasis on the bean to bar concept. A research report by Mintel suggested that the total value of the chocolate market reached an estimated INR 172 billion in 2019 and is pegged to grow at a CAGR of close to 10% between the years 2019-2023. According to the report, the popularity of chocolate in India has increased, with 21% of Indians now consuming chocolate on a daily basis. Chocolate makers are constantly innovating by bringing new and interesting flavours into the market. When it comes to food, consumers today are not solely relying on money value. Below are key points shaping the global food industry.

1) Indulgence:  When it comes to desserts, confectionery flavours and textures, then consumers today are increasingly looking for truly indulgent experiences. This has obviously inspired new levels of creativity among confectioners and chocolatiers around the world. Combinations, previously, unheard of are now becoming popular, g- infusing chocolate with vegetables flavours such as kale flavoured filling in chocolate bars and chocolate being used along with beetroot in cakes – is all the rage now. Texture is also being paid great attention to, new trends like larger chocolate chunks and crispy chocolate layers that add a bite are finding their way into the market.

2) Premiumization:  Consumers today are more conscious of the processes that go into making of the products they consume. Hence, a lot of product descriptions on packaging include details of how a particular item is made. For example, details such as “stone ground” or “slow churned” and even the conching duration of chocolate are explicitly mentioned on the packaging. The demand for artisan products and quality ingredients has definitely seen an uptake in recent years, thanks to the rising number of high-end consumers in the market.

3) Health:  Chocolate has always been an indulging product but, a complete no-no for those looking to get fitter, yet several researchers have debunked this myth. It is now a known fact that not all kinds of chocolates are In order to meet this demand for healthy chocolate, trends such as sugar-free or gluten-free chocolate have been on the rise.  Hence, there is significant demand for dairy-free chocolate, and a lot of brands are also using milk as substitutes to produce vegan chocolate. Manufacturers are turning to adding more local flavours to dark chocolate to appeal an increasingly health conscious market segment. Hence, it is not uncommon to see honey, ginger, or citruses like lemon – that have proven health benefits when added to chocolates.

4) Sustainability:  As consumers become increasingly conscious about environment hygiene, brands are stepping up their game to promise sustainable production practices. Consumers today are aware of the environmental impact of certain products, take for example the presence of palm oil in our packaged products. Palm oil is extracted at great environmental cost, hence, several brands today are rethinking its use and instead switching to using other ingredients like coconut oil.

5) Convenience or On-the-Go Products:   Since the pandemic has led to most people staying at home, the need for quick and easy meals has been on the rise. On-the-go products that are low on preparations are currently in high demand.

In the world of desserts and sweets, consumer preferences are changing and many now prefer confectionery products to traditional sweets because of their convenience and longer shelf-life. Apart from these key trends shaping the chocolate industry, manufacturers are now focusing on different flavours and variants. Manufacturers around the world continue to innovate and blend sweet and savoury products. Consumers are increasingly becoming curious to give the most outrageous flavours a try. 

Below are some of the more popular flavours that are gaining preference.

a. Unusual Fruits: We already know of strawberries, raspberries and cherries being added to chocolate, but there is a whole new range of fruits being integrated into chocolates today. Peach is one such fruit that has become a popular addition to chocolate.

b. Nuts: Hazelnut is the top nut ingredient in chocolate, followed by almonds and peanuts. But there is also a growing popularity of adding pistachio, flax seeds and sunflower seeds in chocolates.

c. Childhood Indulgences: Manufacturers are playing on consumers’ nostalgia by bringing back childhood flavours like cinnamon rolls and others in the market.

d. Flavour Combinations: Salty snacks featuring confectionery coatings have become very popular. The best example of this trend would obviously be the beloved caramel and chocolate popcorn.

e. Herbs & Spices: They are witnessing a rise in popularity thanks to the increased emphasis on their health benefits. Consumers continue to be drawn to trends such as chilli and cinnamon chocolate or dark chocolate infused with ginger.

f. Citrus & Sour: Exotic citrus ingredients, such as the Japanese yuzu, are going to remain popular in 2020. The more familiar citruses such as orange, mandarin, grapefruit, lime, and lemon continue to be popular.

Chocolate has always been a favoured indulgence in the F&B market and with new flavour profiles constantly being developed, there is something for everyone. Today, chocolate has become more of an expression. So, it can be eaten depending on a person’s mood and flavour of choice. Consumers in India have had a gradual shift of allegiance and many today now favour chocolates as gifts during diwali instead of just traditional sweets. This has obviously been possible to the rising disposable income of the middle-class.

The rapid growth of the industry coupled with these new trends is set to expand Indian and global markets. Indian brand manufacturers are leaving no stone unturned to develop local flavours with added health benefits to appeal to domestic consumers. Manufacturers are emphasizing on co-development to optimize business growth. AAK Kamani being a leader in manufacturing of speciality oils and fats for confectionery products collaborates with chocolate manufacturers. This is done by connecting with them through our expertise and unique customer innovation centre. We as a company help businesses grow and thereby create new opportunities.

President, AAK Kamani*