This chocolatier's bean-to-bar chocolate business clocks Rs 60 lakh turnover
Most Indians have a sweet tooth. Perhaps, that is why most conversations are not complete without “kuch meetha hojaye!” (Let’s eat something sweet!)
A myriad variety of sweets are available in India, but chocolates are an option popular across ages. For decades, UK-based Cadbury claimed a monstrous pie of the Indian chocolate market. It is now time to decode and identify some Made-in-India brands that are slowly moving up the ladder.
Chennai-basedis one of them.
L Nitin Chordia, Founder & Chief Tasting Officer, Kocoatrait
From passion to business
Kocoatrait was founded in October 2019 by L Nitin Chordia, a Chennai-based chocolatier. Nitin, like many entrepreneurs, comes from a corporate background. He holds a master’s degree in retail business management from the UK and has worked with the Godrej Group as a consultant.
He also helped several other companies set up businesses in the food and grocery space.
In 2014, Nitin decided to quit his job and explore the chocolate business. He went backpacking for 20 days to Belgium, known as the “chocolate mecca” of the world. However, Nitin realised that there was "nothing special" about Belgian chocolates and that India had enormous potential to achieve something in this domain.
During the trip he met another chocolatier, Martin Christy, who later went on to become Nitin’s mentor. Martin helped him understand various aspects of chocolate making and chocolate tasting. In addition, he particularly got interested in using the bean-to-bar method of chocolate manufacturing, which was taking precedence in India at that time.
Explaining the concept, he says, “It starts from sourcing cocoa beans from farmers. Machines are then used to sort, grade, roast, and remove shells. The finished product is then ready to consume.”
When Nitin realised that he had acquired the knowledge, the next step was to set up operations.
He began setting up small equipment in a room given to him by his father who ran an automobile business. His focus was to manufacture chocolates at a small scale. Some equipment was bought while some was developed by Nitin himself. When the small manufacturing unit was in place, Nitin started making chocolates, a tedious process lasting almost 36 hours.
Of Cocoashala and Kocoatrait
Soon, his wife Poonam Chordia joined him. It was Poonam who suggested that they should open an academy to teach chocolate making. She often told him, “Why don’t we educate people and make money?”
In 2015, Poonam and Nitin founded Cocoashala, an academy that imparted training in making chocolates.
He says, “It is a four-day course. The first day goes in sourcing cocoa beans from a farm adopted by us in Chennai. And the next three days are spent in processing these beans into chocolates, making different recipes, and other things.”
The education business started doing well and today clocks a turnover of around Rs 20 lakh. Nitin says people from all over the world, including Europe and the US, come to their academy.
The teaching business didn’t take much time in scaling but there was something amiss.
Nitin says, “While the chocolate courses were a hit among foreigners, many Indians who wanted to do the course hesitated to join. People weren’t convinced that they could learn from us because we didn’t have a brand of our own.”
This gave birth to Kocoatrait. The made-in-India chocolates were launched in February 2019 in Amsterdam and the brand was launched in India in October the same year.
Nitin was very clear that he wanted to make a zero-waste product. He again travelled across the country to learn to make eco-friendly packaging from cotton waste generated from garment factories and shells of cocoa beans without using wood pulp or plastic.
Kocoatrait has so far sold 7,000 chocolates in the last six months. The brand has 12 varieties of chocolates priced between Rs 190 and Rs 235. The total turnover of the company is Rs 60 lakh; the Cocoashala academy makes Rs 25 lakh, another Rs 25 lakh comes from trading of equipment and cocoa beans, and Kocoatrait makes Rs 10 lakh.
Nitin with Poonam Chordia, Chief Product Officer, Kocoatrait
Challenges and the competition
Looking back, Nitin says there were no major challenges. He says despite India being a manufacturing hub, it is saddled with a lot of gaps in the industry.
“The Indian bean-to-bar chocolate industry in current sales (wholesale to distributor) is worth about Rs 10 crore, which is like a drop in the ocean when compared to the international market. Moreover, it is very difficult for a smaller brand like us to compete with major players like Cadbury.”
Nitin also says that the quality of cocoa beans in India is not very good and that he is working with government bodies and some private organisations in this regard. He adds that chocolates in India get lost in a wide variety of mithais (Indian sweets).
Another reason why Indian chocolate industry has not been able to scale is because of the huge capital expenditure involved and lack of equipment for those who want to start from a small scale.
The journey ahead has many challenges, but Nitin is determined to make a mark. He says in the coming months, Kocoatrait is focused on product diversification.
He adds, “Demand for our bean-to-bar chocolates has gone up by 200 percent during this time. In addition, we plan to introduce high cocoa percentage chocolates. Currently, they contain 70 percent cocoa.”
Kocoatrait will also be launching raw chocolate, an immunity booster, post COVID-19.