Cocoatrait launched in late 2016 provides a selection of three to four premium chocolates to subscribers under one, three and six-month subscription options.
Its aim is to help Indian consumers develop a taste for single origin Indian chocolate and bean-to-bar craft chocolate.
The e-commerce service was established by chocolate taster L Nitin Chordia in Chennai, India. Chordia runs a chocolate tasting club, also named Cocoatrait, and a chocolate school in Cennai called Cocoashala in Chennai.
Improving consumer pallets to create a premium market
Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Chordia said: “We've played an important role in helping people discover craft and bean-to-bar chocolate in India.”
The Cocoatrait service currently sells around 75 boxes a month.
Chordia said: "Seventy-five boxes is a good number as far as we are concerned because not everyone understands craft and bean-to-bar chocolate yet. They are used to more commercial chocolates.”
He added the intention of the boxes is to help consumers develop a taste for bean-to-bar chocolate, helping the market and the brands within the boxes to grow brand awareness.
Chordia expects India's premium chocolate market will grow at 100% per annum in the next three years compared to 30-35% for the mass chocolate market.
"We've not touched the tip of the iceberg yet and there's 1.3bn people who at some stage are going to be relevant to us."
Developing India’s e-commerce chocolate market
According to Chordia, Cocoatrait is also helping to grow India's underdeveloped e-commerce chocolate market.
"Everybody else is trying to sell a commercial product where there is not a strong differentiation for a person to buy online."
Chordia said chocolates in Cocoatrait are often not widely available in physical retail throughout the country as the Indian bean-to-bar makers within the boxes typically only have listings in their local region.
Chordia added many Indian customers report poor experiences when ordering chocolate online.
"A lot of people complain about the chocolate having melted by the time it reaches them,” he said.
Cocoatrait uses overnight Fedex services for delivery and a specially designed insulated box to protect the chocolate from the elements.
Chordia said Amazon began selling chocolate in India around six months ago, partly due to melting concerns during delivery.
Tapping new regions
Cocoatrait’s top seven cities for orders are Banglore, Coimbatore, Pune, Nagpur, Kolkata, Mumbai and Hyderabad respectively.
"A lot of our orders come from smaller cities,” said Chordia.
“These are people who care about local ingredients being used in their chocolates," he said, adding subscribers have tended to be males between 35 and 45.
Cocoatrait boxes contain single origin Indian chocolate brands such as Earthloaf, Mason & Co, Pascati and Indah.
Indian single origin
Boxes also include international brands such as Pacari (Ecuador), Marou Chcoolates (Vietnam) and as well as Cocoatrait’s own brand Enchante, which is produced at Chordia’s chocolate school in Chennai.
"In the coming year we've decided to become more aggressive in offline promotion of this online subscription box,” said the Cocoatrait founder.
The company plans for example to take up exhbition space at fairs within India to promote its subscription service.
Cocoatrait has also partnered with the London-based International Institute of Chocolate & Cacao Tasting (IICCT) to offer Indian consumers chocolate tasting certificate courses.
IICCT currently offers the certification in seven countries: the UK, US, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Hong Kong and Taiwan
Cococatrait will host the first IICCT course in India in June this year – offering advice on tasting origin chocolate, cocoa processing and helping consumers understand how cocoa is grown.
Chocolate taste expert Martin Chisty will travel to India to deliver part of the program.
Chordia said there is currently no formal training available for chocolate enthusiasts and patisserie chefs to hone their skills in chocolate in India.
He said the certification will help Indian consumers to develop their pallets for good quality chocolate and raise standards in the domestic bean-to-bar chocolate market.
"With the Tasting Certifications being offered in India, bean to bar and craft makers in India will no more have it easy.
“They will no more be able to offer average product and be able their influence over the now knowledgeable pallet would decrease in case they continue to offer average or substandard products.”
Creating Indian chocolate entrepreneurs
The new course will run at Chrodia’s Cocoashala chocolate school in Chennai, which was set up last year.
Cocoashala runs a separate three-day bean-to-bar workshop every month for INR 60,000 ($940). Twenty-five students so far have completed the course.
Under the program, the school has partnered with Indian equipment supplier Premier to offer students starter packs with small-scale processing machines and Indian cocoa beans to get making bean-to-bar chocolate right away.
"The idea is to create 40 bean-to-bar makers in India by the end of next year," said Chordia.
"They could potentially become competitors but India is such a large market that I don't believe anybody is competing against anybody,” he said.