MUMBAI: The bar chart for chocolate has shown a growth since the time 4,000 years ago when early chocoholics in ancient Mesoamerica (present day Mexico), used the cacao plant in rituals and as medicine. They extended their belief to the seeds too, acknowledging them to be a gift from the god of wisdom.
Centuries later, the Mayans, followed later by the Aztecs in the 15th century, believed that chocolate came from the gods. Divinity combined with healing and taste led to the gradual spread of chocolate across the world — with the global chocolate market size valued at around $127.7 billion as of 2023. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.4% in the forecast period of 2024-2032 and is expected to be valued at $165.4 billion by 2032. In 2021, Mondelez was the largest chocolate confectionery firm in India with a market share of close to 60%, followed by Nestlé with a market share of about 15%.
The total size of the Indian chocolates market was Rs 15,512 crore in 2022 .
Packed with Antioxidants
According to Euromonitor, it is estimated to grow to Rs 23,700 crore by 2027.
“Chocolate is a superfood when it is unprocessed,” says Professor John Dumay, Macquarie Business School, Chocolate Scorecard researcher. He adds: “Commercially, the best is dark chocolate of 70% or greater cocoa.
The more it is processed and mixed with other ingredients, the less of a superfood it becomes.” While the consumption of milk chocolate in India still dominates, dark chocolate has about 10% of the market share but is expected to be the fastest growing segment as awareness and wellness take precedence.
A number of local brands now produce high-quality dark chocolate because it is what consumers want — especially in a post-pandemic world where health dominates people’s minds. California-based Dr Bharat Rakshak DDS, MDS, says high-quality dark can provide antioxidants, improve heart health, and potentially boost mood due to compounds like flavonoids and theobromine. “It has anti-aging properties, and has also been shown to have a number of other health benefits, including improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and improved cognitive function,” he says.
The Indian chocolate market is witnessing a high demand for dark as per industry analysis and consulting firm Mordor Intelligence.
Jayen Mehta, MD, Amul, says in India, the market for the product has been growing due to an increasing awareness of the potential health benefits. He says: “Amul has pioneered the dark chocolate revolution in India. We have a range starting with 55% dark and moving up to 75%, 90% and 99% dark. We have a wide range in flavours and due to this, the category is growing in India.”
Chocolate contributes 3% to Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation’s (GCMMF) annual sales as of now. While its share in the overall chocolate market is 10%, Mehta says Amul leads the dark segment.
According to him, young adults who are interested in maintaining a balanced diet, fitness enthusiasts and athletes who seek energy and antioxidants, individuals with specific dietary restrictions such as those following low-sugar or keto diets, are some of the groups patronising Amul’s dark chocolate range.
“It is one of the highly-rated superfoods and we have been marketing high cocoa content chocolates as a healthier and more premium option in the market, catering to consumers seeking a more indulgent yet mindful treat,” he adds.
From a branding perspective, however, in India there are limitations in labelling chocolate a ‘superfood’.
“While from a marketing perspective, it is a superfood, we need to also be aware that there is no such category under our food safety regulator FSSAI,” Mehta shares.
FSSAI shares with ET that the FSS Act 2006 does not specify the definition of ‘superfood’. “Therefore, no product could be categorised as superfood. Regulation 2.7.4 Chocolate under Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 prescribes standards for chocolate and FSSAI does not have any information that more chocolate brands in India are going the healthy way.
There is no category specified for selling healthy chocolates under FSSR,” a spokesperson said.
Globally as well, the term ‘superfood’ has no official definition by regulatory authorities in major consumer markets such as by USFDA.
In 2007, the marketing of products as ‘superfoods’ was prohibited in the EU, unless accompanied by a specific authorised health claim supported by credible scientific research.
WRAPPED IN NUTRIENTS
Nevertheless, dark continues to wear a superfood cape. “With high cocoa content it is often considered a superfood due to its potential health benefits when consumed in moderation,” says Dr Rakshak. He says that to get the superfood health benefits, the chocolate needs to have at least 70% cocoa content. “This usually means more antioxidants and less sugar,” he says.
Vedika Premani, clinical dietician at the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, says that one can call an ingredient a superfood if it fulfils the following: It should be rich in compounds such as bioactives, vitamins and minerals. Chocolate ticks all the boxes. “It is rich in antioxidants like magnesium, zinc, manganese and selenium and is known to be beneficial for mental and physical well-being. It is rich in flavanols which helps in increasing blood flow to muscles and brain,” she says.
“Flavanols are plant compounds that have been shown to have a number of health benefits, including anti-aging properties,” shares Dr Rakshak. According to a 2007 report by medical journal The Lancet, flavanols improved coronary vascular function in 11 hearttransplant recipients compared with patients taking a cocoa-free control chocolate.
Dr Ruchi Rai, dietitian at SRV Hospitals shares that “flavanols stimulate nitric oxide production, enhancing blood flow and relaxing arteries, reducing blood pressure.” Dark chocolate’s nutrient content, including manganese, magnesium, iron, selenium, copper, zinc and potassium, makes it an ideal aftermeal treat, she observes.