Posted on 1 Comment

Expectations from restaurants during the pandemic and beyond

It would be safe to assume that consumers expect safety and hygiene to be a basic need from restaurants going forward. Untill now, it was taken for granted. Let me start with an example. I recollect that clearly demonstrated better hygiene and open kitchen was one of the main reasons for Saravana Bhavan in Chennai becoming an iconic and hugely profitable brand back in the day. Whether it was keeping the spoon sanitised in warm water or dressing all the staff well, they did it out of the need to differentiate and not because the customers demanded it at that point in time. One may argue it still did not help them survive the vicious restaurant life cycle. My argument is that they certainly and very successfully extended it for quite long! We shall not go into the reasons for their decline as this is not the intention of this communication. The intention is to learn from the best always and evaluate if it suits you today. Herewith, I am trying to bring out of the cloud a few things that we might not be considering during these stressful times. Of course this is not the laundry list of things we must do as businesses to keep alive post the lockdown but a priority list at the least. Certainly there are multiple more efforts that need to be taken as the situation evolves.

“Vision without execution… is just hallucination”

– A Visionary
  1. Demonstrate what is expected from you: I would like to start with hygiene. The includes environmental hygiene both outside and inside your restaurant. No more we can give an excuse that I cant help it if the outside is not clean.
    • Change location, work with the corporation to do what it takes
    • On the inside, be minimalistic with your décor and furniture and space them out. Use Stainless steel furniture to ensure easy moving, cleanliness and hygiene. Avoid wodden furniture and fabric/leather seating. Keep the floor visible and cleanable. Spacing the tables means lesser PAX per sqft but this is expected out of you.
    • Seeing is believing. People want to see that hygiene is being maintained. Maintain a log clearly visible to the customers about when the facility was cleaned. No more hiding it behind a door!
    • Have the employee temperature checks done everyday recorded and displayed at the entrance and on social media (hiding the names on Social Media).
    • Improve lighting (natural if possible) and make sure there are no dim lightning or corners.
  2. Manage your menu: Most people complicate the menu and end up giving enough reasons to customers to complain about the consistency. Given the labour churn, It is not possible to maintain consistency in delivery. Customers will now need Healthy, Tasty and Soulful food. An elaborate menu also leads to high ingredient storage space, costs and management.
    • Trim and simplify the menu. Aim at keeping only close to 50% of your existing menu.
    • Look up previous sales data about what has sold the most.
    • Start with understanding what your customers have missed most during lockdown and try and include as much of it as possible in the menu. It is a huge learning that will serve us well going forward.
    • List down the ingredients that are used the most among the top sellers and optimise your ingredient inventory based on that. Do not over stock inventory.
    • Remember, people will be scared to try out restaurant style food for a while but are forced to eat outside for unavoidable reasons.
    • Add healthier and more simple home style food options in your menu.
    • Do not overdo it but include sufficient number of menu items that are usually made at home.
    • Turn yourself into a home style kitchen.
  3. Overemphasis on ingredients: Local, Sustainable and Natural ingredients will be the minimum that would be required to please a customer.
    • “I can’t afford it” is not an excuse that sounds acceptable anymore by an hotelier. The idea is to service the customer to ensure that he feels he has had a nourishing, safe and delicious meal at the right price.
    • This is the only way to ensure his return or even his visit!  
  4. Authentic Food anyone? Improve the authenticity of the taste of your food. I have dined at so many restaurants who have not made any effort on the menu. It is simply about copy paste and excessive usage of frozen and convenient foods. There is no authenticity to this.
    • Try to specialise in the menu items that you offer. Trust us, they will need a lot of pursuing to eat out and choose your restaurant! Give them stuff that you have prepared yourself.
    • With a simpler menu, it is going to be easier.
  5. Transparency needs to be redefined: Customers will need to be convinced about the hygiene of your location if you want them to dine in your restaurant. Remember, the decision to choose the restaurant for dine in is almost always taken before the travel commences.
    • Try to showcase your storage area and kitchen area as much as possible in your communication.
    • Open up your store CCTV camera views to outsiders during working hours. Have a request based solution. Of course do not show it out at night.
    • Highlight the type/brand of oil that you use. Mention the sourcing points of your ingredients. Increase traceability for the customer. Be an open book.
    • Highlight the local element of your product
    • Highlight the nutrition of the food that you are serving. Try to highlight the calories most importantly.
    • Do not compare your menu/food with others. Customers shall see through this and perceive it negatively during these times.
    • Days of using colour/ artificial flavours are numbered.
    • Calculate the cost of the item and display the final cost on the menu.
    • Let the customer have access to your recipes. This is the time to be bold and opportunist. Please the customer no matter what it takes.
    • Make him feel that he is eating at the safety of home and paying the right price. This does not mean lower prices.
    • Follow the FSSAI labelling regulations (generally used for packaged foods) for each item on the menu. Ensure that you do not use foods that were stored in the open or which might have a risk of being damaged or spoilt. The world order has changed. Please change accordingly. What have you got to lose?
    • This is perhaps the best time to invest in a community fridge which shall feed the poor and needy outside your restaurant. The restaurant can keep unsold food and even guests can request the extra food ordered to be kept in the fridge. Thus also reducing unnecessary packaging.
  6. Customer Engagement: This cannot be over emphasised during this period.
    • Continuously engage and communicate with your community/customers with simple and planned messages. Use Social Media, SMS, Email, FB, Instagram, Phone calls, Whats app, Telegram or anything you can do to reach out to them.
    • Start with recording your own videos immediately. It can be done with your own “smart” mobile phone. This is the most reassuring media.
    • Directly ask your customers how they think you can improve and what they would like you to offer. It could mean changing your cuisine offering completely if that’s what all your customers want! Ensure that you make those changes and go back to them. They will certainly be obliged to give you a try!
    • Ask them how you can improve your hygiene. Please do not be ashamed. There is nothing worse than not being able to cater to your customers requirement.
    • As soon as you have made changes, record a video/pictures and circulate to your customers. Seeing is believing and if they see that you have taken steps, they are immediately more confident about dining at your location. They will see your work style and become your ambassador.
    • Keep your social media active with latest content and communication from you to your customers directly.
    • In the restaurant, no conflicts should be encouraged. Empathy towards the customer must be increased. Under normal circumstances, a customer complaint is looked at as an opportunity, but now we need to look at it empathy also.
    • Elderly and very young customers should be given specific additional care and treatment.
  7. Up-skill your staff: Train them to take on additional tasks and multitask. This is going to be the new common.
    • Please lay off anyone who is a habitual offender of non compliance. Do it before anything else. The last thing you need is a guy who takes your business for granted in this phase.
    • Use their language to help them understand what it takes.
    • Make groups for hygiene and nominate a leader accountable for each group. Mention the expectations clearly to the leaders and the teams. Huddle up each evening without fail. This is a typical corporate style approach and it must work for you. They cannot go back to their old ways of working.
  8. Outsourcing during the pandemic: My Favourite! The smartest of them all will outsource the most critical job to their most important stakeholders. In this case your customers.
    • Call your customers to help you redesign your menu. Ask them to select their menu.
    • Ask them if they can share a recipe and that you will implement it if there is a demand.
    • Execute it to their satisfaction. They are the reason you exist (has never been any other way!)
  9. Reduce costs at any cost! This is obvious but cannot be over emphasised. You cannot loose money to inefficiencies during this time.
    • Stop printing menu cards. They are dirty and seen as unhygenic most of the times. A simple menu can be printed and pasted or published on a screen.
    • Ordering at the table can be stopped. The customer can be requested to either order via a device placed on the table or at the cash desk.
    • Simplifying a menu, reducing menu items and having only fast moving products will certainly help reduce inventory and hence investment costs.
    • No discounts to be given or advertised.
    • Decrease working hours of restaurants during which customers can walk-in. This way your staff can double up for multiple roles.
    • Stop paying fancy PR and Social Media monthly retainers. You are doing enough PR.
    • The media and customers will find you if you are doing good work. You need customers to walk in now and nothing else.
  10. Innovative sales models to ensure cash flow: This is the right time to innovate.
    • Start a subscription services for meals and foods. Follow and demonstrate all the required safety norms during contactless delivery. This gives you some money upfront and helps you keep aware of targets.
    • Start “order to pick” models and ensure payment is made in advance.
    • Do not engage with delivery partners as far as possible.
    • Allow customers to choose, in advance, a slot when they want to come to dine.
  11. Partner with your employees: Considering we are today talking about survival and meeting basic needs, make your employees partners and a transparent share in your business without having to increase salaries.
    • Work out a way that you move to a 100% success based payoff where an employee surely takes away more than he used to with a low minimum wage guarantee.
    • Turn them into weekly pay and not monthly pay during this period without effecting their legal status.
    • Communicate with them frequently and ask them their ideas. They will implement them more happily if it originated from them.
  12. Increase credibility with stakeholders: Reach out to your financial partners and stakeholders to convince them that you are doing your best everyday.
    • Send them over the list of your efforts and even better a meal! You need supporters and not influencers right now.
    • Make the payment cycle weekly for all. Make part payments. This way your stakeholders are all satisfied and they will feel the pinch lesser. Turn the tide your way! (This is a contribution from my dad.)
  13. Why profit? Forget profits for now. Think operational breakeven. It is a matter of our survival. As our PM Modi ji rightly said, “Jaan hai to Jahaan hai”. Please note that I am not using this to demonstrate my support for Modi ji. He is India’s Prime Minister and hence he deserves this mention. My dad says “Maa nahi hai aur tum mausi ki chinta kar rahe ho!”
  14. It is about the fast and not the big: Contrary to popular belief, I think it is about the businesses who respond fast and win customers.
    • This is a golden opportunity to do whatever it takes within your scope.
    • Larger chains are not as agile as the small/medium ones and cannot response as easily as you can. You are not called small and medium businesses for no reason!
    • There is no excuse not to act fast without your own limitations. Start now!

Please remember these initiatives cost you noting more than human effort. If any of you feel that you do not have records of your customers, please remember that it was your decision to give it away to online aggregators and that this database could have been worth its weight in gold as of now. As people famously say, data is the new oil (gold!). If you feel that you cannot make these and more changes, please ask yourself this question: What choice do you now have? What did you bring with you? Get your creative juices flowing and demonstrate entrepreneurship which is the sole reason you are in this business. Start looking as other restaurateurs as your friends and not competition. Have a large heart and behave humanly. They have no choice either! One question that we all should be asking ourselves is whether we shall see the same pre corona environment ever? The answer is quite certainly a NO. The conditions were tough earlier on and is going to get even tougher. These tactical moves can help you to an extent but shall not be sufficient if your basic model does not change.

Last but not the least, once the lockdown is over, let us show our respects, love and appreciation to all the women in the house whose work load has doubled during the lockdown and who have as always not complained about it at all. They deserve the 1st vacation and as soon as safely possible. Also a more prominent role in your restaurant business perhaps?

About the Author: L Nitin Chordia is a Sparing Partner and a Retail Business Consultant with over 15 years of experience in Indian FMCG and Retail Domain working with large brands and FMCG companies both in india and overseas. Nitin is India’s 1st Certified Chocolate Taster and Judge at the International Chocolate Awards, London. Cocoatrait is an initiative to promote knowledge, production and consumption of fine chocolates in India. Nitin is the 1st external faculty at the Institute of fine chocolate tasting, UK. Cocoatrait operates the only one of its kind virtual chocolate tasting club in India with an aim to connect Chocolate Lovers with Chocolatiers. Nitin along with his wife Poonam (a trained chocolatier) has initiated Cocoashala, a chocolate school which helps you discover the basics of chocolate and beyond. We also operate the world’s 1st Zero Waste, Sustainable and Eco Friendly Bean to Bar chocolate called Kocoatrait.

Posted on

Vegan Sustainable Ecofriendly Recyclable Bean to Bar Chocolate

Kocoatrait Vegan, Sustainable, Recyclable chocolate

Saving the planet one chocolate bar at a time!

Poonam Chordia & L Nitin Chordia

The launch of Kocoatrait Chocolates marked the birth of the world’s 1st Vegan, Sustainable, Ecofriendly, Recyclable and Planet Friendly Bean to Bar Chocolate. We proudly showcased India’s plastic free and paper free effort to the developed world and had a dream launch in early 2019 in Amsterdam. On display was how Kocoatrait operated in and contributed to the circular economy model. In the past year in India, our efforts have met with both disbelief and acceptance in the same breath. Kocoatrait is proudly a cockroach startup. (Read How It Is Different From Unicorn Startups). Given the current pandemic scenario our efforts to be a sustainable and planet friendly chocolate brand might NOT sound completely alien. We expect to find relevance with a much larger audience across the globe and in our home market India.

Kocoatrait Launch Chocoa Amsterdam Feb 2019
The Indian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr Venu Rajamony at Kocoatrait Launch @ Chocoa 2019 in Amsterdam

The Past

A bit of digging deep into our chocolate consumption behaviour would help us put things in perspective. Let us start with, when in 2019 Mariana Trench, an american explorer found candy wrappers on the seafloor. She was attempting to break the record for the deepest human dive ever. This did ring alarm bells and demonstrated how far the implications of human carelessness can be felt and the irreparable impact it is bound to create if we continue our current consumption behaviour. The amount of landfills chocolate wrappers produce adds to chocolates being among one of the most polluting FMCG products in the world. Chips and confectionery packets account for the largest share (19%) of plastic waste in India according to FICCI.

Forcing all of us to think hard

John Gary of the New Statesman in his article titled “Why this crisis is a turning point in history” dated 1st April 2020 claims, “The era of peak globalisation is over. For those of us not on the front line, clearing the mind and thinking how to live in an altered world is the task at hand”. He adds, “Of course economic expansion is not indefinitely sustainable. For one thing, it can only worsen climate change and turn the planet into a garbage dump”. It is perhaps fair to assume that consumers will start to expect brands and products to be more planet friendly. It will also lead to localisation as per KPMG’s forecast of how business landscape is likely to evolve in the days to come. As i write this on 14th April 2020, what comes as a breath of fresh air is Amsterdam’s decision to consider adopting the Doughnut model of sustainable development where decreasing the dependence on depleting resources shall be in focus. Fast economic growth is not considered necessary in this model of sustenance. Click to read.

Worth Pondering About

Anand Mahindra recently wrote an email addressing his employees, where he noted how neglectful we have been and how we were putting an unnecessary burden on the environment. He pondered with a touch of distress.

“Do we need this kind of crisis to learn all this? Can we not live like this even after the crisis is over, not use the environment in a better way and reduce carbon emissions by traveling less?”

– Anand Mahindra, Mahindra & Mahindra

“For too long, the human race has taken the planet for granted, exploiting resources and depleting its biodiversity to feed our unsustainable ways”

Pankaj M Munjal Chairman & Managing Director, HMC, a Hero Motors Company

Vegan, Sustainable, Ecofriendly and Recyclable chocolate

Kocoatrait had the luxury of time over the last 2-3 years to think and act beyond the obvious and immediately visible customer demands. We added differentiation as a key element of our product strategy and we decided that our chocolate packaging would help us balance the impact of the environmental/water burden cocoa farming puts on the planet. In hindsight, we are now happy that we took this execution task very seriously. We are convinced that we right when we decided to execute our product, packaging & positioning strategy in peace before having been forced to!

Strategy without execution is hallucination!

Mike Roach, CEO, CGI

Declarations

Before justifying our efforts to create a futuristic Vegan Sustainable Ecofriendly Recyclable and concious chocolate brand, we would like to be transparent and look at some relevant declarations. a) It takes an astonishing 1700 liters of water to make a typical 100 gram chocolate bar as quoted by BBC. Most of that water is consumed by the cocoa plants in the field. We are not sure if we can reduce the farms dependence on water currently or in the future and b) We currently use non-renewable water/electricity supply sources. Move to greener and self sustainable sources of these resources in the future is on the cards.

It is quite clear, that we do not operate in an industry that is completely sustainable from an input standpoint. Hence, our endeavour has been to do our bit and ensure chocolate lovers do get their daily dose of chocolates with as less guilt as possible. Apart from being Vegan Sustainable Ecofriendly and Recyclable, we have decide to invest in workarounds to make the final chocolate packaging planet friendly. There is little doubt in our minds that our efforts will align with consumer priorities going forward.

Kocoatrait Vegan, Sustainable, Recyclable chocolate
Kocoatrait Vegan, Sustainable, Recyclable chocolate

As of March 2020, Kocoatrait has helped prevent 50 Kgs of single use chocolate wrappers from polluting landfills. This is our chosen parameter to measure the impact of our Startup!

– Poonam & L Nitin Chordia, Kocoatrait

Going by rough calculations, 500 sheets of A4 size non-recycled paper uses 6 percent of an average size tree, we have saved 1/3rd a tree. To put things in perspective, each tree will remove 3 Kgs of Carbon Dioxide emissions per year from the air! As of March 2020, we have helped remove 1 kg of carbon dioxide from the air! Hence helping us reduce our carbon footprint. While this might seem like a pretty small contribution to the planet, we derive pleasure in comparing our current situation to one where we would have contributed to landfill if we were using single use plastic lined chocolate wrappers. This keeps us motivated, strong & going.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

– Steve Jobs
Insight into the Journey of Cocoa Pods to Kocoatrait Chocolates!

Our concerns and the opportunity

We have noted that our average consumer is well travelled and that the sustainability voices were growing over the last few years. Given the above, our concern is that post Covid19, travels will reduce or get minimised to “when necessary” due to justified fears. Travel related exposure to other cultures play a significant role in changing consumer mindsets. We are questioned about how our customer would get inspired to adopt sustainable and zero waste living lifestyles? How will consumers navigate the path of sustainability in this unsustainable world? Will they adopt effortlessly? Will they understand the need and benefits of doing so? Well, we will find the answers sooner than later upon our return to the “New Normal”. We shall be paying specific attention to the changes our consumers are going to make to their lifestyle to reduce the greenhouse gases that are generated by their actions. In the meanwhile, if interested, you can check your own Carbon Footprint by using this Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Heres how Kocoatrait, Vegan Sustainable Ecofriendly Recyclable chocolate brand is contributing to India’s circular Economy!

  1. Circularity in Packaging

    We UPCYCLE our packaging material by reclaiming cotton from Textile units & our own cocoa husk waste and help in REDUCING LANDFILL. Our packaging is RECYCLABLE, BIO DEGRADABLE & COMPOSTABLE and also PLASTIC & PAPER FREE.

  2. Eco Friendly

    70% of the Upcycled material gets utilised into making our chocolate wrapper with an aim to reduce WASTAGE of valuable resources. The balance 30% gets REUSED as a business card or gets RECYCLED.

  3. Planet Friendly

    We do not want to be a small bar inside a larger sized wrapper. Our Packaging helps us OPTIMIZE our transport volume, reduce CARBON FOOTPRINT & occupy LESSER RETAIL SHELF SPACE!

  4. Extending Product Lifestyle

    The inner side of the packaging has mandala art templates, greetings, emergency contacts, habit tracker, bookmarks etc, making it REUSABLE thus EXTENDING THE LIFECYCLE of the product and making the wrapper ZERO WASTE!

  5. Social Inclusiveness

    The wrapper design is entirely printed at V-Excel Educational Trust aiming to support & foster inclusion & independence of individuals with SPECIAL NEEDS.

  6. Use of Technology

    QR Codes have been used to educate consumers by providing information about REUSE & RECYCLING of packaging material.

  7. Sustainable Ingredients

    Uses ORGANIC cocoa beans of SOUTH INDIAN ORIGIN. Uses traditional NON REFINED organic khandsari (moscovado) sugar. Kocoatrait is Palm oil free! We do not buy cocoa where the cocoa was planted as a result of deforestation.

  8. Fair Prices to farmer

    As a business decision we only source Fine flavoured cocoa and pay 55% higher than market prices on an average for our cocoa purchases. We try to maximise the benefit to the farmers.

  9. Unique Natural Flavours

    10 UNIQUE DARK CHOCOLATE FLAVOURS – Sukku Coffee, Masala Chai, Lavender, Banana, Pink Rose, Red Rose, Lemongrass, Banana, Coconut Milk & Cinnamon, Irish Coffee. FLAVOUR OILS have NOT been used.

  10. Transparency

    We print the (RDA) Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances clearly on the FRONT of the pack, allowing us to be transparent & CONSUMER CENTRIC. We also clearly give credits to our printing partners on the packaging.

  11. Healthier Product

    REDUCED SUGAR & HIGH COCOA ensures a much healthier Dark chocolate experience. In line with these principles, we do not offer White & Milk chocolates. Most of our chocolates are Vegan.

The Press release is available at: https://cocoatrait.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Kocoatrait-Press-Release-11th-December-2019-scaled.jpg We also curated a Zero waste chocolate gift box! Below is a video on the Making of Kocoatrait. You have an opportunity to enroll for a Bean to Bar chocolate making course at our Institute Cocoashala too! Click for details.

The making of Kocoatrait Vegan, Sustainable, Recyclable chocolate

Press Contact: L Nitin Chordia; +919600064846; nitin@cocoatrait.com

Posted on

Making of India’s 1st Zero Waste Chocolate Gift Box!

Kocoatrait, the world’s 1st planet/eco friendly, socially concious and sustainable luxury bean to bar chocolate, was launched at Chocoa in Amsterdam in 2019. Whats unique about Kocoatrait is that we operate in the Circular Economy (link). By November 2019, Kocoatrait launched in chennai and had started to think about expanding beyond current retail and online platforms. Zero waste gift was one idea that did occur to us early on. The attempt was to reach the more exposed, evolved and travelled audiences. Just then, we received a call from one of chennai’s oldest technology centric advertisement solution providers. The client had received communication from us as part of our outreach program. They were evaluating innovative gifting options their business partners and reached out to us. We were excited to present the Kocoatrait story to them.

We visited their team in the next few days. They patiently heard us narrate the Kocoatrait story! It was a memorable short meeting taking precisely 4 minutes to almost close the deal. I can talk hours about our story at one go usually! Half way through the conversation, I felt very confident while speaking to the audience. They saw us as a right fit into their requirements. It felt that I was presenting the right solution to the right audience. This is ever marketers dream and we somehow got there!). I already started feeling we had marketed our product well and did not have to sell it. Anyone interested to read more on the difference between marketing and sales can click here!

It was the 5th minute of the conversation and we were already tasting the chocolates! I went on to explain how this whole gift Box would be Zero Waste. At the end of 10th minute we were discussing how many boxes can be shipped out to their select business partners across India! This was one of the rare meetings where we were asked what we could do for a specific price/budget, we worked backwards and the deal closed on my 1st offer. For anyone who does not know about Kocoatrait chocolates yet, here is the link to the Presser for your perusal: Click on this Link.

Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box
Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box

The box contained 6 Kocoatrait chocolate bars of various exotic flavours. While the chocolate was Zero waste, we had to also ensure that the outer packaging was Zero waste too! We used a TIN box, on which we got the clients branding screen printed using water based inks. The printing was done on our own up-cycled chocolate wrapping material. Vexcel Educational Trust, are our printing partners. Vexcel was super efficient and delivered in no time! In the inner side the lid of the TIN box, we had a Professional chocolate tasing guide pasted. We also had a QR code to access the webpage of our other chocolate flavours. Another QR code helps users understand how to reuse the aluminium foil which is used to wrap our chocolates.

Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box
Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box
Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box
Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box

The client was impressed and convinced by the Zero waste gift box concept. I realised it when I saw an entire and most important side of the insert being used to narrate our story! They could impress their business partners by demonstrating their support to local businesses who are planet friendly and sustainable. What better way to say “Thank You”! I realised this when i read the content to be printed on the other side of the insert. They were kind enough to share our story along with our contact details.

Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box
Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box
Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box

The TIN box with the chocolates was fit into a reusable cardboard box which accommodated 2 reusable ice gel packs. This box was then taped and we used a sheet of paper to print the bluedart shipping label. We have been working with bluedart since to see how we can eliminate paper but that does not seem as an option as of now. The only regret we had that it had to be taped using plastic tapes. We have since then, found a solution to the tapes. We will start using bio degradable cling wraps from our next orders to make the box tamper proof during transit.

Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box
Kocoatrait Zero Waste Gift Box

In the next 2 weeks, we collaborated out IT effort with our shipping partners Bluedart to generate shipping labels. The shipments were all out for overnight delivery within the next few days! The learning while integrating with Bluedart IT was about our inability to be agile rather than theirs! While the despatches had some delays (keeping shipping to the 1st half of the week), we tracked the packages closely.

Upon delivery we started receiving feedback calls from both the client and their recipients. They were pleased with the in-depth thought that had gone into making the gift box a Zero waste affair. We felt that our conviction of offering a Zero waste chocolate gift box was not early in time and was validated. A market opportunity exists and clients can quite easily be converted into gifting a Zero Waste experience. As Winston S. Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”. Kocoatrait – Indulge. Discover.

PS: My dad is my daily dose of inspiration. He asks me everyday, “What new have you done today?” (almost expecting me to come up with an actionable idea everyday! – Parents know how to push when needed). Forcing me to constantly think out of the box for solutions to everyday problems. He firmly believes what goes around comes around. He has a single minded & undivided attention and focus towards innovation and new ideas even in his field of work.

I am writing this during the lockdown and am forced to think that this pandemic must have a positive impact on humankind. It is heartening to see pictures of animals enjoying their time in nature while humans stay inside the concrete jungle. I hope that, going forward, humans are more compassionate towards the planet and mother earth. We are happy that we have willingly and proactively put in our efforts towards becoming planet friendly rather than being reactive to a situation. Connect with us now! nitin@cocoatrait.com; +919600064846

Posted on

Cocoa Bean Varieties in India

Cocoa Bean Varieties in india is a very interesting topic for discussion. In all my travels across cocoa farms in India, most farmers nervously and curiously point out to a slender long cocoa pod or a purple colour pod and ask if this is criollo cacao beans. For starters, criollo is considered a variety of cacao which commands a premium due to better flavour and limited availability. We like the hope with which they expect a positive reply. However, we disappoint him on most occasions. There is a lot more to this than what meets the eye. A bit of history, trade, lack of research, knowledge, colonialism and convenience has lead people to believe the myth that there are 3 cocoa varieties namely Criollo, Trinitario and Forestero. The truth is that these are just mere historical groupings based upon geographies that they were attributed too. These are not genetic varieties. Each of these groups historically created for the convenience of trade have multiple specific genetic varieties which offer specific flavour profiles and physical characteristics. They have not been researched in great detail yet across the globe. Studies are ongoing and have been initiated but we are far from near the end. It is assumed that there would be more than 10 families into which each of the several distinguishable varieties can be slotted into. Each country has several hybrids they have developed which has a fairly large development cycle comprising many years. This makes global mapping a bit of a challenge.

Cocoa Pods in an Indian Farm

On a typical cocoa farm in India (and most places globally) you would see 3-4 different genetic varieties of cocoa (attached picture). In India, most of the varieties will be from the assumed forestero group, which is considered to be a variety best suited to make industrial chocolate (we dont believe 100% of that!). So when some one says “We have traces of South American cacao in my farm”, you can respond by saying “Of course cacao is not native to India and they came in from South America!” Post that, you could check if the cacao farmer is aware that these three names were trade names and they do not indicate cacao varieties. The fact is that even if there is 2-3 % of criollo group of cocoa in a farm, it is not enough to make a difference in the entire lot. And, before you might ask, there is never enough of the coveted groups in a single farm to process a full batch of fermentation. This is one reason why micro batch fermentation is bound to become a popular trend going forward.

The rightful question however is how much of that meaningful trace (of criollo) have they got in their Indian cacao farm? The answer is very clear that not much! It’s best to start referring to Indian cacao beans as “Indian” rather than any of these not so useful and relevant names! Be proud of what the Indian varietals are capable of reaching, be original and play to our strengths rather than say that our cocoa has some of the other traits ! Our Kocoatrait chocolates are made using a blend of various farms! Click: https://cocoatrait.com/product-category/shop/kocoatrait-chocolates/ Evaluate our signature 4 day Bean to Bar certification program at: https://cocoatrait.com/product/4-day-micro-batch-bean-to-bar-chocolate-making-course-cocoashala-chennai-india/

For further details please write to nitin@cocoatrait.com or call on +919600064846.

Cocoa Varieties available in a Indian Cocoa Farm
Posted on 1 Comment

Where is the cockroach in chocolate?

FDA Cockroach in chocolate

Over the last 4 days, I have received a specific video on Whats app more than 200 times in different groups and from several people who know my involvement in chocolates. Most people in shock ask, “Is this true?!?!?!” To me this episode is a masterclass in making viral social media videos. Let’s see how. The ingredients of the video are: Choose the right content (chocolate in this case), instill fear among viewers and ensure it is relevant across age groups, gender, religion, profession, geography, culture and beliefs. In short, talk about chocolate and make it whats app sharable.

A seemingly educated lady starts a video addressing a rather unassuming & perhaps imaginary audience on an assuring note saying that Junk food is to be avoided etc etc. This ensures that the audiance starts getting in the comfort zone. Then 1 minute into the video, the topic of chocolate is easily introduced! Claiming that maida, sugar and cockroaches are used in chocolate and giving examples of how the mighty authoritative FDA allows 6 gms of insect parts in chocolate, she further states that cockroaches are attracted to the smell of fermentation and chocolate makers cant help it or contain it. Hence they have written to the authorities and got permission to process chocolate with these insects.

Recently food bloggers have come under the scanner a lot for not verifying what they publish. But there are easily sharable videos doing the rounds on what’s app (embedded as a youtube link to this post) and the people who make these videos go scot free and in fact cause more damage than good because they are aimlessly forwarded without verification of any facts. They create panic and cause fear among the audiances. I have had several people saying that they have thrown away the chocolate they had in stock after having seen this video! The lady implies that, because, FDA allows 4% cockroach parts in chocolate, the chocolate makers would add that amount of animal products into chocolate! Of course, please be rest assured that neither FDA says it the same way it has been interpreted nor does any chocolate maker resorts to adding animal parts to chocolate. To make matters worse, when people receive such messages and do a quick google search with keywords like cockroaches in chocolate, a lot of unknown websites show up some dated articles regarding the same. If they happen to do a search on youtube you would see some videos in telegu language stating the same things and also mentioning reputed brand names! Ofcourse the narrators face is not shown in those videos. This specific video (attached to this post) is a rip-off from another video that appeared in Telugu language on whats app a few months ago. A lady there also narrates her thoughts in a similar manner with the aim of creating panic. These are attention seeking social media tactics. No phone number, email address or any contact detail has been provided. She is now, very easily a social media (what’s app included) sensation within a few days! I am sure celebrities can also not imagine to go this viral so easily.

There is a concept of allowed ingredient in each product category in India based on FSSAI. Heres what FSSAI’s definition is of chocolate (this is derived from their draft Draft_Notice_Comments_Labelling_Display_11_04_2018.pdf). Ofcourse I am not able to read cockroaches as an allowed ingredient in chocolate in the definition below:

Chocolate means a homogeneous product obtained by an adequate process of manufacture from a mixture of one or more of the ingredients, namely, cocoa materials including cocoa beans, cocoa nib, cocoa mass (cocoa liquor/cocoa paste), cocoa press cake and cocoa powder (cocoa fines or cocoa dust), including fat reduced cocoa powder with or without addition of sugars, cocoa butter, milk solids including milk fat. The addition of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter shall not exceed 5 per cent of the finished product, after deduction of the total weight of any other added edible foodstuffs, without reducing the minimum contents of cocoa materials
Optional ingredients
In addition to the aforementioned ingredients, the chocolate may contain one or more of the substances given below, namely:-
I. edible salts;
II. spices and condiments and their extracts;
III. vitamins and minerals;
IV. permitted emulsifying and stabilising agents;
V. permitted sequestering and buffering agents.

Also, do you read the word seizure in the text of the FDA document (at the image at the start of this post?) It is very important to read this in context of the overall law. This is a provision and the guidelines that the FDA has given when the food authority has to seize the products that are produced above this limit. Where does it say that it is allowed that any chocolate maker in the world can actually put cockroach in the chocolate? Is Cockroach in the allowed ingredient list in chocolate? The answer is a safe NO. If you read one paragraph on a single page out of the law that is hundred pages long, it amounts to half baked knowledge and also ignorance apart from supporting a wrong cause. You should be through in your research. Never assume that food laws are so simply stupid.

I say this to every student in my class that any news about chocolate (even if it is unverified content like what this video explains), will always get attention. That’s a reality of chocolate. For all of us fermenting our own cocoa beans and making chocolate from bean to bar, this is simply an insult of the highest order. This lady has perhaps not seen what is carried out when we work with cocoa at the farm or a chocolate making unit. She would have scared several thousand people already and many people will find it difficult to even think of chocolates now. I wonder what or who motivated her. Unfortunately large companies like Cadburys and Nestle have a lot to loose due to this publicity since they are the most easily accessable to Indian consumers. We can be rest assured no animal parts are added in any chocolate in any part of the world. – L Nitin Chordia, India’s 1st certified chocolate taster and also a Cocoa post harvest professional. Contactable at: nitin@cocoatrait.com