Launched in Hyderabad early this year, Manam Chocolate, meaning ‘We’ or ‘Us’ in Telugu, is a heartfelt nod to its Indian origin. The brand is a collective of passionate craftspeople: farmers, fermenters, chocolate makers, chocolatiers, and storytellers, united to usher in a new era of Indian craft chocolate, each bringing their expertise to enable the journey of cocoa from bean to bar.
At the head of the company is Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Chaitanya Muppala, who has been certified Levels 1, 2 & 3 in Chocolate Tasting by the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting (IICCT, USA). He is currently India's first and only Level 3 Certified Chocolate Taster.
Cocoa in India
India's cocoa production is forecast to reach nearly 30,000 metric tons by 2026, a 2.8% year-on-year growth rate. Since 1982, production has increased by almost 8%. India ranked 15th in the world for 2021 production, with Venezuela ahead of it at 24,810 metric tons. Ghana, Indonesia, and Nigeria placed second, third, and fourth, respectively. Indian cocoa imports are projected to reach 44 million kilogrammes by 2026, a 3% year-on-year average growth rate. Since 1996, demand has risen by around 8%. India was 17th in the world for 2021 imports, with Mexico ahead of it at 36.8 million kilogrammes. The United States, Malaysia, and Germany ranked second, third, and fourth, respectively.
Manam Chocolate, and its sister company, Distinct Origins, control the value chain from farm to factory to unlock the unexplored flavours of the Indian cocoa bean. Conventionally, this process has been carried out by farmers in rudimentary ways, which is detrimental to the flavour of chocolate. Once processed, the beans are dispatched to Manam Chocolate Karkhana in Hyderabad, ready to be crafted into a world of endless chocolate confections. The brand’s signature tablet collection includes Single Farm series, Single Origin series, Creative Fermentation series, Signature Blends, and an exciting range of Infusions and Inclusions.
A spokesperson said Manam Chocolate launched its first flagship experiential space - the Manam Chocolate Karkhana, at Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, and will be available across India through its e-commerce platform with a high-street and travel retail rollout planned in the next 12 months.
India has been growing cocoa for over six decades but is hitherto not known for fine-flavoured cocoa because of the bean’s poor fermentation and drying methods. Until now, one of the most crucial aspects in bringing out the inherent flavours of cocoa has been neglected.
The farmers fermented and dried the cocoa beans in the past but lacked resources, infrastructure, and time. With nothing but rudimentary fermentation and drying practices, the cocoa’s flavour development is irreversibly thrown off balance.
Muppala began building India's most prominent fine flavour Cacao Fermentery in Tadikalapudi, West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh, in 2021, working to create a source for transparent and equitably traded fine flavour cocoa from India. During this time, he has successfully brought on board over 100 cocoa farmers with 1,500 acres of land in what is estimated to be India's largest cocoa -growing region for this ambitious endeavour. Instead of buying processed beans from farmers, the company started investing in the fruit and processing it at the Fermentery. Doing so also took a load off member farmers, giving them the time and energy to focus on nurturing their crops.
“The Fermentery has been monumental in helping craft the fine flavoured Indian cocoa and explore its endless possibilities. Over the past two years, extensive experiments have been conducted here to revolutionise the fermentation and drying processes of Indian cocoa,” a spokesperson said.
The District Origins Cacao Fermentery in West Godavari is described as the largest of its kind in India and estimated to be the second largest in the world. It is a state-of-the-art cocoa processing facility that was established in 2021. The company said the Fermentery is an effort to revolutionise the fermentation and drying techniques of Indian cocoa with state-of-the-art proprietary technology, bringing about a new era for Indian craft chocolate.