Premium chocolate category will be the next growth horizon for chocolate manufacturers in India: Bonafide Research

The demand for premium or luxury chocolates is rising in India as consumers with more disposable income are rising. The perception of this affluent population is changing with urban consumers looking to chocolates as a perfect alternative to traditional Indian 'mitthai' for occasional gifting. Consumer preferences are shifting more towards branded and imported chocolates today, thus increasing the demand for premium offerings. Chocolate consumption is gaining popularity in India due to increasing prosperity coupled with a shift in food habits. The growth India chocolate market has achieved in the last decade is remarkable. Tradition of gifting culture, shifting consumer preference towards chocolates, rising income levels and smaller SKU's which are suitable for every pocket have been the key elements responsible for this growth. Another feature that has worked for this industry is the attractive pricing of products which particularly suits the Indian scenario wherein consumers seek economical products. But features like affordability & availability will come into play only if people have the purchasing power. In addition, India has low per capita consumption of chocolates compared to other developed nations across the globe. It poses latent opportunity for growth as the country strives towards more off-takes for the product. According to recently published report of Bonafide Research, "India Chocolate Market Outlook 2022", premium chocolate makes a smaller percentage around 21% of overall chocolate consumption in India in the year 2016. However, the category is growing significantly from the last five years as consumers are trading up to luxury chocolates. This has given an opportunity to international brands to enter the Indian market and increase their penetration by creating an affordable premium space for the aspirers. Even established chocolate manufactures in India are extending their portfolios to include more and more high-end chocolate products. The premium play suggests better margins for existing players, especially in time of persistent inflation and stressed margins. Presently, the premium chocolate category is dominated by Ferrero and Mondelez, both international brands. Ferrero, who entered in 2004, created a market for premium chocolates in India from scratch. Ferrero was the first marketer to sense that there was a set of consumers in India willing to pay Rs. 300 for a box of chocolates. They learnt that there is a space for premium products even in a country dominated by price conscious consumers. Ferrero recently announced that it would be investing Rs. 367 crore in the Indian market, while Mondelez International is also planning to invest Rs. 100 crore in a research, quality and development hub in Maharashtra. Increasing amount of investments from these established players is the major reason for chocolate business growth in the country. On the other hand, Nestle India has also announced that it will be bringing more premium brands to India as well as re-launching its Alpino chocolates. Hence, there is a lot of buzz in the premium category and every marketer wants to cash-in on the opportunity. Indian consumers buy premium chocolates mostly during festivals when they generally gift sweets like 'mitthai'. Festivals are an occasion when sales of premium chocolates are seeing a spurt, mainly because of innovation and variety by manufacturers in gifting segment. Diwali, Raksha Bandhan, Christmas and New Year are the prominent festivals when sales of premium offerings pick up. Seasonal offerings for specific occasions like Valentine’s Day are also lapped up easily by consumers and such assortments have done really well for marketers. Major international companies operating in the chocolate market of India are Mondelez India Foods Pvt. Ltd., Nestle India Limited, Ferrero India Pvt. Ltd., Mars International India Pvt. Ltd. and Hershey India Pvt. Ltd. Major domestic companies operating in the chocolate market of India are Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd., Lotus Chocolate Company Ltd., The CAMPCO Ltd., Parle Products Pvt. Ltd. and ITC Limited.

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