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Manam Chocolates wants to showcase Indian craft chocolate to the world

Hyderabad’s premium luxury chocolate brand Manam wants to popularise Indian craft chocolate through its experience centre, retail business, and cafe. Its business spans sourcing to processing and showcasing the best of Indian produce.

Manam Chocolates wants to showcase Indian craft chocolate to the world

Friday November 10, 2023 , 6 min Read

The smell of cacao beans takes over your senses as you enter the curiously shaped Manam Chocolate Karkhana in the high street of Hyderabad. Visitors are greeted by an array of bars, barks, and truffles, as you move into the bakery selection and frozen desserts section. 

The chocolate flavours range from tried and tested combinations such as almond praline and salted caramel, to localised variants like the sesame halwa fudge, mango magic macaron, and corn flakes and cashew bark. 

The fluid design leads you further up a ramp where the establishment processes its chocolates, using the ball-milling process to ensure a velvety mouth-feel–something Indians who grew up on Cadbury's Dairy Milk are used to.

Manam chocolates

Baked offerings by Manam | Image source: Manam Chocolate's Instagram page

“Manam is a premium craft chocolate, which caters to the Indian palate. However, it is not restricted to Indian flavours, but giving our customers an experience of the kind of chocolate they grew up eating, which is typically very ‘chocolatey chocolate’,” says Chaitanya Muppala, serial entrepreneur, Founder of Manam Chocolates and CEO of Distinct Origins.

As the CEO of Hyderabad-based mithai brand Almond House, he also set up other sub brands including elevated street food brand Gappe Vappe and Indulge ice creams

He adds that while the brand has unique Indian flavours and combinations, the idea is to showcase the craft of chocolate-making and bringing out collector’s editions annually with new design philosophy, showcasing the bar from a particular vintage.

For its inaugural year, Manam has roped in Delhi-based artist and graphic designer Namrata Kumar to design the artwork for its packages while Anomaly Brands has designed the packaging. 

Beyond bean to bark 

The business has two parts to it–the parent company Distinct Origins, which works with farmers in the West Godavari district to grow cacao, and the retail entity, Manam Chocolate, which operates the cafe and experience centre as well as the retail business. 

Chaitanya says that when the concept of setting up a chocolate brand was being discussed, Manam wanted the offering to be different from competitors. 

“We have been following a house of brands strategy at Almond House, and come up with a new arsenal of brands, which fit in the parent brand. Since a quarter of our consumer base is corporate, we did get feelers to start something in the chocolate segment,” he says. 

Manam Chocolates

He adds that soon all cities will have two to three local chocolate brands, much like the popular mithai brands local to the place. “For that, most of the brands will be buying chocolate, adding their own flavours, fruits, nuts, and marketing it–making it a homogenous business.”

With the current business, the idea was to showcase Indian craft chocolate, which is produced, processed, fermented and packaged in-house. That is how Distinct Origins came into being–sourcing single-origin cacao beans from farmers in Western Godavari. 

Manam

In-house processing of cacao beans at Manam

The fermentation is done at Distinct Origins’ Cacao Fermentery in West Godavari as it is a complex process for farmers to execute. Since cacao is a shade crop, it is grown with other crops like palm and coconut.

“There is a lot of reputation building to be done for Indian cacao … There are four cacao growing regions in India and we plan to expand our Distinct Origins business to Kerala, Pollachi, and some parts of Karnataka. Manam allows us to showcase the craft chocolate, which is attractive to people in the premium luxury segment,” says Chaitanya. 

Nearly 98% of the cacao produced by Distint Origins is used by Manam Chocolates in-house for its produce, while the remaining is shipped to craft chocolate makers to try the product. 

The company wants to partner with strategics to scale its agri export business to take the single origin Indian cacao to other countries, while Manam as a brand serves as one of the consumers of the cacao being produced. 

The business of craft chocolate

The Manam Chocolate Karkhana in Hyderabad’s Jubilee Hills is the first- of-its-kind high-street retail store, experience centre, and cafe, rolled into one. Spread over a 1,000 square yard plot, the cafe is choc-a-bloc on a Saturday afternoon, with footfalls surpassing expectations since it started on August 15, 2023. 

Manam Chocolate

The Manam Chocolate Karkhana | Image source: Raghavendra Peddi, Google images

Interestingly, the café, which showcases cacao inspired cuisine, including eggs in cacao butter, as well as locally-sourced produce like the Chakkarakeli banana vanilla pudding, was initially set up to offset costs of running the operations at Manam. The retail front also features pastries, truffles, fudge, macarons, shakes, ice creams, cakes, croissants, and dessert jars, and other offerings spanning 250-plus products apart from barks and bars, crafted by chef Ruby Islam. 

“We would like to start three or four more karkhanas in other major metros, flanked by high-street retail including consuming, gifting and interaction with chocolate, along with travel retail. We have poised to grow in three double-digit CAGR growth industries spanning cafe, patisserie, and chocolates,” Chaitanya adds. 

As part of the Distinct Origins, the company plans on setting up a cacao tourism and experimental farms for craft chocolate makers of global origin. As part of Manam, the business plans on conducting chocolate appreciation workshops in smaller cohorts. 

Manam

Chefs at work in the Manam Chocolate Karkhana

So far, Almond House, the parent entity, has invested $4 million in setting up Manam,  which has been deployed towards brand development, product development, packaging and capital for building and running the retail presence. “We are looking for strategic partners on both ends–for agricultural commercial export of cacao as well as someone who can help us on the retail and F&B side,” says Chaitanya, adding that this could be as expedited as 8-12 months to fuel growth. 

He promises that the craft chocolate brand will soon be available online. 

YS Life recommends:

  • Manam Dark Chocolate Cake made with 67% Dark Single Origin West Godavari
  • Caramelised Cacao Nibs and Sea Salt Brownie made with 82% Single Origin, Dominican Republic Cacao
  • Crunchy Almond and Coffee Chocolate Spread made with 45% Milk Single Origin, West Godavari
  • Sweet Curry Leaf and White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
  • Chakkarakeli Banana Soft Serve Ice cream

Cost:

  • The Manam Signature Tablet Collection Rs 375- Rs 500 per 80 gms tablet
  • A meal for two at the cafe costs about Rs 2,200 on an average

Edited by Megha Reddy