There are the Monday blues, but then there are the Chennai cheers of chocolate, courtesy Kocoatrait, available all over India through their website. The Made in India brand is the country’s first vegan eco-friendly range of chocolate. This is the story of Nitin L Chordia, and how he and his wife created it. Speaking about the local scene, “Our Gurgaon orders have a very high average order value (Rs 1,500-2,000 per order). Out of which Noida is the least number of orders and least average order values. Innovative flavours are most ordered from Gurgaon. Strangely for us, orders from NCR are for self consumption (ie. Billing & Shipping address is the same). This is not the same in other metros.”
How it started
Me and my wife are certified chocolate tasters and we run an institute called Cocoashaala here in Chennai; one of the first institutes in the world that offers end to end/bean to bar chocolate making courses. We’ve been doing this for four years now. The idea came about in February 2018 when we attended an exhibition in Amsterdam that we have been attending for five years to take up stalls for our Institute and advertise our course. Over there, a lot of people asked us whether anyone in India was doing sustainable, cruelty-free, organic or eco-friendly chocolate. Initially, we didn’t find it relatable as we hadn’t heard too much about it.
When we returned and did some research about it we found India was far behind in producing eco-friendly chocolate. Evident from the fact that organic chocolates are just entering the market. We saw this as an opportunity and on speaking to consumers found a market open up if things were done with the right intentions (many “fair trade” chocolate makers simply buy cocoa beans via fair trade, however the rest of the chocolate-making process is as exploitative as regular chocolate).
We thought of using handmade paper wrapping, however these are manufactured on a small scale by cottage industries. After 4-5 months of in-house research over 4-5 months, we now manufacture our own using reclaimed cotton from garment factories and the cocoa husk. These two combined can make paper without adding wood pulp, 20-40 per cent of which is present even in handmade paper to increase shelf life and act as a binding agent.
The social dynamic
We get our printing done at an NGO that employs differently abled citizens (autism, physically and mentally impaired individuals that can’t get mainstream jobs). It takes time, but allows us to build upon our cause. The trading happened over 2-3 months and initially required immense patience. However, this allowed them to improve their skills to almost a machine-like level. We also realised our method of printing and screen printing brought individuals in contact with plastic ink that is carcinogenic. Therefore, we switched to water-based ink that is eco-friendly.
We heard about circular economy where you should use all the resources of the earth to conduct your business but aim for two things: an extended shelf life of the resource after it has met its initial requirement and when it goes back into the soil it should be good for the planet. This gave us the idea of printing various consumer engagement ideas on the inside of the wrapper so for example, monthly health tracker, bookmarks, greeting cards, mandala arts. Consumers can cut out the wrapper after eating the chocolate and retain it for further use. Though this increases cost it provides an element of surprise for the consumer and allows us to achieve circularity.