India’s love of British chocolate has rocketed in recent years, according to UK government figures. Demand for brands – including Cadbury – has hit the sweet spot and led to UK exports of confectionery to the country rising from £700,000 in 2018 to £3.8 million in 2022.
That is an increase of 441 per cent and chocolate was the most popular export to India after whisky and gin last year, according to the HM Revenue & Customs overseas trade statistics. And there was another spike in demand for chocolate eggs to celebrate the Easter weekend in April.
Manju Malhi, a chef and food author, said by far the most popular chocolate brand in India is Cadbury which has been prevalent there for over 70 years.
She told Eastern Eye: “There are products unique to Asia which include the 5 Star bar, that’s similar to a Mars bar, and Silk, that’s a creamy version of a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.
“Toblerone is also a firm favourite, because it has been sold in British airports for decades and people travelling to and from various countries around the globe would bring back to India a bar or two as a luxury chocolate item.”
Malhi added: “Of course, Indians are known for their sweet tooth so selling chocolate in India is a no brainer. With bakeries and cake shops sprouting alongside mithai shops across Indian cities, this demand for the stocking the sweet stuff has led to the increase of UK exports of chocolate to India in order to satiate the palate.
“This trend will continue as people become more familiar with varieties of chocolate that can also be used for cooking.
“Individuals would be able to differentiate between the types of chocolate to eat and couverture chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa solids,” said Malhi.
Overall, total UK food & drink exports to the Asian country were worth £316.2 million last year, up 84.5 per cent in current prices from 2021. Whisky accounted for 89.3 per cent of the total.
Cyrus Todiwala, a Mumbai born chef and restaurant owner in London, believes the increase in chocolate exports is down to greater affordability among the growing middle and richer classes.
He told Eastern Eye: “There are better more air conditioned shops that are climate friendly for richer softer truffles and the taste for better chocolate has grown tenfold.
“We always take chocolates for friends and family back home. Previously we took the regular branded ones like Mars bars, the Galaxy range, Lindt – now you cannot as these brands are very commonly sold.
“So now we have to select different brands or chocolates that we think are not commonly sold. So India has changed.”
Todiwala, who runs restaurant Cafe Spice Namaste in East London, added: “Ferrero Rocher actually manufacture in India now.
“Chocolates also come via the Middle East as well because a lot of the branding also has Arabic script on it.”
The government’s Food & Drink Export Council aims to boost British business overseas. It consists of members from the Department for International Trade, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, industry bodies and entrepreneurs including Tee Sandhu who runs snack firm SamosaCo.
And with the UK and India government in talks over a new trade deal, led by business secretary Kemi Badenoch MP, there is hope that the agreement will contain plenty of sweeteners.
A UK government spokesman said: “UK and India are continuing negotiating an ambitious Free Trade Agreement that will boost our current trading relationship, already worth £34 billion in the 12 months ending September 2022.
“A deal would put our worldclass food and drink producers at the front of the queue to supply India’s middle class, which is expected to increase to a quarter of a billion consumers by 2050.”
Meanwhile, India’s growth figures were up from seven per cent in December 2022 to 7.8 per cent in January 2023.
Chetan Sehgal, from Templeton Emerging Markets Investment Trust, said: “India remains a bright spot amidst the challenging outlook for global growth.
“India’s growth is supported by several catalysts, including a rising middle class, a potential surge in manufacturing output, and demand for talent in the IT sector.
“Longer term-fundamentals for India remain robust given increasing penetration of consumer goods, the growing formalisation of the economy, and a stable government,” said Sehgal.