KOCHI: Years ago, when actor Amitabh Bachchan stormed the country’s mithai realm with the catchphrase ‘Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye’, little did he know that milk chocolate would be catapulted to the zenith of Indian sweets.
The sugary treat, accessible to all, became India’s favourite chocolate. However, the dark variant found itself reserved for the elite. Considered premium and expensive, it was placed primarily among imported chocolate category with fillings limited to non-indigenous fruits such as strawberries and cranberries. Sensing an enormous opportunity, home-grown chocolate brand ‘Paul and Mike’, a product of Synthite Industries, cashed in with a ‘farm to bar’ policy, prioritising farmers and fermenters over chocolatiers, unlike their rivals.
By pairing Indian fruits such as Alphonso mango, jamun, sitaphal and incorporating flavours like Balkan Rose and Beer Stout Caramel into milk and dark chocolate variants, it launched the premium brand harvested from cacao farms in Kochi and Idukki. With delicate notes to be leisurely consumed like wine, ‘Paul and Mike’ contains flavours that should be perceived by our sensory system. The label is also committed to becoming carbon positive by 2023.
“We decided to look at cocoa as a new product for our portfolio. Upon research, we figured out the potential in the premium chocolate category in India. Since Kerala is an existing producer of cacao, why not develop a superior brand within the country? That was the genesis of our thought,” said Vikas Temani, business head, ‘Paul and Mike’, Synthite Industries. Vikas then undertook a journey into the heartland of cocoa — Latin America, to learn the ropes.
“While African cocoa is mostly produced in bulk as industrial chocolates, real and fine quality cocoa is found in Latin America. We met many farmers engaged in fine cocoa farming and chocolate making. ‘Paul and Mike’ are two farmers we met, who explained the process of farming and fermentation, which is a crucial part of chocolate making. Our brand name is a tribute to them,” he explained. “Foreign chocolates are overpriced due to their import and shipping cost.
They aren’t necessarily a barometer for quality, which depends on the cocoa bean. Our website, social media handles and packaging educate people on the same. We emphasise on the varieties of cocoa we grow, the timing of the harvest and the fermentation process, which can change the flavour notes of cocoa beans. Currently, the Indian consumer understands that great beverages and food can be made in India at the right practices,” said Vikas.
Fruits of labour are sweet
“Though we started working on ‘Paul and Mike’ in 2016, we only reaped results last year. We set up a cocoa farm, farmers in Kochi and Idukki were trained in the right methods. Experiments were conducted for the right flavour profile. While we took a few years to streamline the process, we launched the product only when we were confident,” he said.
“For long, milk chocolate was considered a sugary treat to be consumed after dinner. We wanted to create a gourmet product comprising both, milk and dark variants. Encompassing them with freeze-dried Indian fruits popularly found in the southern belt elevates the experience. We are trying to pair Indian fruits that supplement chocolate flavours; in fact, these do phenomenally well,” said Vikas.
Unlike most chocolate brands that use shades of brown and purple on their wrappers, ‘Paul and Mike’ have chosen pastel colours that elicit a summery feel. “Pastel hues are fundamentally associated with nature. We position ourselves as farmers and fermenters, and we wanted the same to be reflected in the packaging. We have also included information to educate people on why we’re different,” he said.
Home-grown chocolate brand ‘Paul and Mike’ offers exclusive confections by pairing premium cocoa with Indian fruits such as Alphonso mango, jamun and sitaphal, all this while prioritising farmers and fermenters over chocolatiers