Choc-full: More consumers in India choosing dark over milk chocolate products

By Nurul Ain Razali contact

- Last updated on GMT

India's hot chocolate beverage firm Tiggle formulated its latest hazelnut beverage using roasted, chopped Turkish hazelnuts. ©Tiggle
India's hot chocolate beverage firm Tiggle formulated its latest hazelnut beverage using roasted, chopped Turkish hazelnuts. ©Tiggle

Related tags: Hot chocolate, India, Hazelnuts, Dark chocolate

Indian consumers are increasingly leaning toward dark chocolate due to higher awareness of its benefits, according to the founder of the country’s D2C hot chocolate beverage firm Tiggle, Anuva Kakkar.

For instance, the brand’s dark chocolate beverage has remained top-selling despite being paired with a conventional chocolate version during the launch in November 2020. In addition, 90% of its sales comprise dark chocolate-based beverages during the first six months of the brand’s existence. The balance of 10% is made of conventional chocolate.

“The West treats hot chocolate or hot cacao as something equating to mindfulness. For instance, they have it say after their yoga session. I don’t think that’s the case in India. Indian consumers prefer to drink hot chocolate when they are stressed, having their menstruation or done with their work, closing their laptops and want to relax,”​ observed Kakkar.

Tiggle beverages can be brewed in under three minutes and manufactured in small batches by an all-women team in Agra (south of India capital New Delhi). The cocoa is sourced directly from the farmers in Tamil Nadu (southern India).

Kakkar’s journey started with her peddling freshly-made hot chocolate outside a train station in Delhi. During the pandemic, Tiggle was “moved” online to Facebook and Instagram, amassing its community of more than 2,000 followers. The brand sold over 60,000 cups in six months, with three variants – dark chocolate, jaggery and light. To date, the firm has sold over 300,000 cups.

Elevating the experience

Driven by the community demand for a hazelnut beverage, Tiggle launched its fourth SKU, the hazelnut hot chocolate, in late June 2022. It is made with a dark chocolate base and formulated with toasted and chopped Turkish hazelnuts.

According to Kakkar, conventional hazelnut beverages are usually made with nature-identical – but not natural – hazelnut flavour. Hence, Tiggle conducted research and development (R&D) from April to June 2022 to search for the best formulation made with real hazelnuts and dark chocolate. It is priced at 499 rupees (US$6) per 200g pack, which can make 10 cups.

Within 24 hours of its launch, the first production run of 2,000 cups for the Tiggle community sold out. However, supplies have been restored for purchase by the general audience.

“We promised to crack a hazelnut hot chocolate recipe made of 100% hazelnuts. The community has been at the heart of whatever we do at Tiggle. And when it comes to bringing new products, we knew we had to get our community involved from the start. We faced our fair share of challenges, but we are very proud of what we have created together,”​ she said.

Challenge the “chai”

Kakkar acknowledged that India is synonymous with tea or “chai”, which has been replicated and well-loved globally. Moreover, her peers said during Tiggle’s launch that they had heard of hot chocolate but lacked the awareness of what it was. Upon further analysis, she said her products and their characteristics were not competing with “chai”.

“Tea (chai) and coffee are drunk to stay awake, but hot chocolate fits in anytime and at night. For now, we have only scratched the surface of the Indian market. We’ve also found better demand in Tier 1 cities, such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Trivandrum and Calcutta. At Tiggle, we are focused on hot chocolate beverages, whereas other chocolate companies make it a convenient additional product to their range. There is growth potential in this segment,”​ she said.

With this in mind, she will launch another three dark chocolate-based SKUs by end-2022 with jaggery as a sweetener and no refined sugars. For Q1 2023, the firm plans to launch an assorted beverage box containing sachets and Tiggle merchandise like spoons and cups. Additionally, Tiggle is now bracing for an upsurge in demand due to the impending monsoon season from September to March and winter from October to March in India.

“A beverage company shared this – tea helps you think, coffee helps you work, but hot chocolate helps you live,”​ said Kakkar.

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