Can plant-based chocolate crack APAC amid looming labeling challenges

The vegan and plant-based food and beverage industry in APAC is growing at a rapid pace, especially sectors such as plant-based dairy and plant-based meats – but the chocolate sector herbal in particular has yet to take off in such a big way as these.

In this edition of our FNA InnovATE series, industry experts share their exclusive insights into the key industry requirements for achieving its own growth in the region, as well as the potential challenges that still need to be overcome.

According to Komal Khosla, CEO of Indian vegan chocolate company CARRA, it is imperative that vegan chocolate companies obtain their taste, texture, flavors and the resulting chocolate drinking experience for consumers, in order to be widely accepted by consumers.

“Especially in a country like India where milk chocolate has been a staple for us since we were born, [consumers are] very, very used to very milky and very sweet products – so if the taste, texture and overall experience is not as good or better than dairy chocolate, it will be difficult to convert them”,she said FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“We know from experience that Indian consumers are more comfortable with 55% chocolate – we tried to increase this to 60% and even 70%, but 55% remained the most popular – and also infused more localized Indian flavors in our products to increase acceptance of our vegan chocolates.

“That includes things like betel leaf, cardamom, lychee, etc. – especially Indian spices which not only add increased nutritional qualities to chocolates, but also go very well with chocolate. [and] can give consumers that sense of familiarity.

In Australia, vegan chocolate company Treat Dreams also believes that good taste is key, especially in a category that caters to indulgence and decadence like chocolate.

“We believe in decadent chocolates made with real couverture chocolate (i.e. extra cocoa butter and no vegetable oil) for the shine, snap and silky smoothness that melts in your mouth with a sensational taste “,indicates the company’s website.

“Coverage chocolate is a very high quality chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter [as opposed to] compound chocolate that replaces some, if not all, of the cocoa butter with vegetable oils, which tends to leave an oily slick in the mouth.

Carra and Treat Dreams only use couverture chocolate to ensure high quality.

Watch the video above to learn more.

Potential labeling issues

Although miles apart, the two countries’ vegan chocolate sectors face a similar looming hurdle – that of local regulators pushing for labeling regulations based on plants.

Although this issue has a greater impact on sectors using ‘traditional’ meat and dairy terms such as ‘sausage’ or ‘milk’, there is a real concern that any regulations implemented could extend to the whole plant-based vegan products industry – including chocolates.

“Because plant-based and vegan chocolates are still a very small category in India at the moment, they haven’t gotten as much attention [in the labelling issue] by food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority India (FSSAI)”,Khosla said.

“As with milk, of course, there’s already been a lot of fanfare here, but chocolate hasn’t been mentioned in relation to any of these issues – but we do know that as the sector grows, even a bit bigger, we anticipate there will be future issues that arise in relation to this.

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