It may be the land of mithai, but India’s no stranger to luxury chocolates from all over the world. A century ago, the maharaja of Kapurthala was a regular customer at Fauchon in Paris for champagne-filled truffles stamped with the royal crest. More recently, tasting clubs have sprung up, offering chocoholics a taste of some of the best chocolate around, even as premium brands like Patchi from Lebanon, Leonidas of Belgium, France’s Debailleul and the American Brown & Haley have found a place on Indian store shelves.
Now, there’s one more luxe chocolatier in India, this time from Japan. The Orient isn’t normally counted among regions known for good chocolate (the list usually starts with Switzerland and ends with Belgium), but Royce’ is a 30-year-old brand from Hokkaido that enjoys a cult-like following among connoisseurs. And that is what will ensure its success in India, believe Avani Raheja and Samir Gadhok of Burgundy Hospitality, which has brought the brand to India in an exclusive partnership.
“Royce’ is already a familiar name to our target customers — those who travel abroad, buy from duty-free and appreciate good chocolate,” says Raheja, adding that the company will not advertise or “push” the brand in any way. Instead, she is counting on tasting sessions — both at the store as well as in targeted groups, such as wedding planners and event managers — to do the trick. “We will let our customers spread the word for us,” she adds.
Burgundy Hospitality, a start-up that aims to bring fine foods from around the world, spent over 18 months working with Royce’ on perfecting the supply chain in India. The reason: fresh cream is a critical ingredient in most Royce’ products, which means they have a very short shelf life of one to three months and spoil very easily. Gadhok and Raheja, therefore, turned to the premium ice cream supply chain for inspiration when preparing for Royce’s launch. One reason was the similarity in product — any temperature abuse, in chocolate or ice cream, will reflect directly in the quality and texture of the product, points out Gadhok. Also, he adds, “premium ice cream brands in India face the same paradigm as we do — both our products are high value, low volume and high sensitivity”.
How are they getting around that? The entire supply chain is under Burgundy’s control and the chocolate is imported and stored at -20° C. Royce’s Nama range, particularly, is very sensitive to heat, so it is sent home with buyers in a special thermo pack with a cooling gel inside to maintain the ambient temperature. The first Royce’ store opened in Mumbai last month with 19 varieties of chocolate, priced between ₹484 for a bar to ₹995 for 20 pieces of Nama. The selection will be updated every few months but some items will be staples — such as Royce’s nod to junk food: chocolate-coated potato wafers. Burgundy doesn’t want Royce’ to be a luxury-only brand: “We want to be everyone’s first choice of comfort food,” Gadhok says. Potato chips and chocolate, rolled into one — he’s making a good start.