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BW Businessworld

A Bite Of Goodness

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Take a bite of that sinfully rich chocolate bar, close your eyes, and savour heaven. And then immediately afterwards, feel a pang of guilt. After all, anything that tastes this wonderful cannot be good for your health right?

Well, wrong actually. New research is showing that dark chocolates might actually be good for you, if consumed in moderation. Dark chocolates have plenty of flavenoids, are good for your heart and blood pressure, and may even reduce cholesterol by a bit, though the jury is still out on that last benefit.

Meanwhile, a range of choco entrepreneurs are also beginning to concoct products that will add more health benefits to the chocolate bar, and reduce your guilt even further.

Mumbai-based chocolatier Zeba Kohli is all set to launch a line of chocolate positioned as health snacks. "These are single 4 gm chocolates made of various health options like sunflower seeds and prunes. Each of these is coated with chocolate," said Kohli, managing director, Good Housekeeping Company, which manufactures and markets chocolates under the brand Fantasie Fine Chocolates.

Ingredients: Organically grown cocoa beans
Why healthy: Free of chemicals
Price: Rs 2,200/kg

Extra dark chocolate contributes towards a good heart, explained Kohli, whose family has been in the chocolate business for three generations. It's not surprising that she has concocted chocolates with cereal, a variant aimed at those with digestion-related disorders. If that's a difficult thought to digest, the chocolatier's lab tested research and experiments have led to an assortment of extra dark chocolates with high-fibre muesli, an in-house blend which has become a specialty. "We have developed extra-dark chocolates for nutritionists, whose ingredients range from prunes to flak seeds," she adds. An organic line of chocolates with flavours as varied as honey, nuts and ginger is in the offing. Fantasie's Sugar-free Milk/Dark Chocolate/Sugarfree Hazelnut Praline is Rs 2,200 per kg. The organic line and the Dark/Extra Dark chocolate also cost the same.

Chocolate concepts like dark, bitter and organic, which were relatively unknown, are becoming more mainstream. For the uninitiated, by and large one can expect dark chocolate to have a small percentage of milk or sugar and strong notes of chocolate. Bitter chocolate is identified as being very dark, with little or no sugar. It contains little or no milk and is also called extra dark or pure chocolate. The organic chocolate is farm grown and is made with chemical-free ingredients.

Depending on the cocoa content, the chocolate is graded as dark, very dark and bitter. Generally, dark chocolates contain about 55 per cent cocoa, and bitter, 70 per cent cocoa. Very dark chocolates contain 85 per cent cocoa.

However, using alternatives involves hard work, patience and money, which is why the health line is a niche and emerging segment in a price-sensitive market like India. Yet, it is proving to be profitable.

Take the case of Bliss Chocolates, a Bangalore-based chocolate lounge, whose health flavour line has managed to whip up excellent sales. Obviously, the health quotient has attracted a diverse range of clients. "This segment represents a minor part of our business. Yet over the past six months, we have seen sales increase 20 per cent. Therefore, we plan to expand this line," explained Vimal Sharma, director, Bliss Chocolates. All thanks to its sugar-free chocolates retailed under the health flavour category. These sugar-free chocolates are available in options that include white, milk and dark concoctions. They come in the form of a bar, where a 40-gm bar is priced at Rs 140 and contains maltitol, a sugar substitute which has fewer calories, doesn't cause tooth decay and is believed to have lesser effect on blood glucose. "These sugar-free chocolates are sourced from Belgium. We do not use pistas, cashews or butter in these chocolate," adds Sharma.

Another company, The Chocolate Room India is conceptualised as a chocolate boutique whose portfolio of products is devoid of eggs or animal fat. "We have a line of dark semi sweet chocolates, which contains 55 per cent cocoa. The fact that it is handmade and combines dry fruit and imported ingredients has made it our signature creation. Our sugar-free range is a sellout even with those who are not diabetic," explained Mayur Joshi, operations manager, The Chocolate Room India. The dark, semi-sweet chocolate retails at Rs 900 per kg.

With so many experiments happening in the cocoa world, it's no surprise that chocolate entrepreneurs are taking their much loved aphrodisiac creations to an exotic high, while they fall back on the hi-tech world to popularise chocolates.

This goes beyond word-of-mouth publicity; a chocolate line in Bangalore is being promoted through SMSes. "We have tied up with a private company to market our health offering through SMSes. Every month 400,000 customers are targeted in Karnataka through SMSes. We intend to extend the marketing campaign to other states. In coming weeks, direct mailers will be sent out to a wider audience. We also intend to tap a larger crowd through Facebook," said chocolatier couple Anupama and Amarnath, who run Chocolate Junction in Bangalore.

The marketing blitzkrieg is for the health creation conceptualised as Enlight, which they describe as a very challenging yet prized variant. Enlight priced at Rs 1,150 per kg (plus 14 per cent VAT) has been created with maltitol.

While chocolate makers look for various ways of promoting the richness of a chocolate, what remains a constant is the lip-smacking addictive factor, which never fails. Chocolate is essentially comfort food, but over the years, health substitutes have become an acquired taste. For instance, carob is used as an alternative to chocolates and is healthier than chocolates. One can find them in health stores and is normally recommended for vegans. Carob chips are edible and similar to chocolate chips. However, carob beats the cocoa bean because of its health factor. It is high in fibre and contains a number of nutrients and vitamins like A, B and D.

"The darker the chocolate, the more bitter it tastes. The flavour can be enhanced by honey dipped fruit peels, raisins, dried strawberries,  blueberries and figs. They are a hit only with people who have a high tolerance for bitter or purest form of chocolate," says Sofia Raj, Royale Chocolatier, Delhi. Dark chocolate has fewer calories compared to milk chocolate, but, on the whole, chocolate has lot of calories. "Have dark chocolates in small quantities and that should keep your heart healthy," advised Raj.

Of course, chocolate purists will scoff at the idea of chocolates with muesli or bran or even those with maltitol. But for lots of people who want their chocolate fix without feeling the guilt associated with consuming it, these are pretty good options.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 05-09-2011)