LuxeBook dives into the decadent world of the Indian chocolate industry from the eyes, ears and taste buds of one of the country’s leading chocolatiers. From exciting new flavours to sustainable “bean to bar” chocolate making, chocolatier Devansh Ashar spills the ‘cocoa’ beans.
Chocolatier Devansh Ashar used his strong foundation in the hospitality industry to establish his chocolate business. Having worked as a restaurant manager in top hotel chains such as Starwood, Hilton and Taj, including the uber-luxury Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, the refined chocolatier founded Pascati, a luxury, organic chocolate brand that is compliant with the strict standards of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) & Fairtrade Certification.
On the foray into the chocolate scene
Having worked in the industry for over four years, I felt that it was now time to take on something challenging. I, like a lot of us, have been a chocolate-lover since childhood and was always curious about the chocolate-making process. One day, I decided to modify an idli grinder and make chocolate in my bedroom, and the rest is history. Pretty soon, we started selling at farmers markets such as Markets by Karen Anand in Mumbai and Pune, local ones in Juhu, as well as exhibitions around town. Backed by positive feedback, I decided to take it up full time and set up a factory in 2015.
On challenging endeavours and projects of pride
For me, the proudest moment was when our products were certified organic. We worked doubly hard to ensure that we adhered to all USDA certification norms and worked closely with our certifying agency throughout the process. Being the only Indian chocolate brand to be Fairtrade certified is another feather in our cap.
On baking for stars and five-stars
We supply our chocolates to the minibars of several hotels such as JW Marriott, W Goa, Hilton Bangalore and Hyatt hotels across cities. Our corporate gifting clients are mostly India-base, medium-sized business owners that like to gift chocolates their premium customers. Diwali is a really popular period for us in the corporate gifting sector.
On standing out from the crowd
For us, gourmet means pure. Our chocolates are devoid of any hydrogenated vegetable fat, commercially used by many chocolate brands as a filler. We also use non-alkalised cacoa to retain maximum flavour profile of the original beans. Our chocolates are devoid of any emulsifiers or vanilla.
As a Fairtrade brand, we pay a Fairtrade premium to the farmers from whom we source our cacao crop. The money is pumped back into community-building initiatives. We also work closely with farmers to control the quality of cacao.
Marketing and promotion
We rely on, both, online and offline marketing. The former, plays a big role in attracting a millennial demographic. When it comes to offline, we do full-day sampling sessions by our promoters at 15+ stores in the city, such as Cornucopia in Matunga, and The Farmers’ Store in Malabar Hill and Bandra. We also participate in events and workshops across the country. We also plan to open the doors of our factory soon for the customers soon.
On the importance of going local
I source the cacao from Kerala, which goes against many views that the best cacao comes from abroad. I have thoroughly enjoyed using organic walnuts from the Kashmir Valley to make our blueberry walnut bars.
On the road ahead
We are working on a new product range of filled products – chocolate bars, truffles and pralines – as a new gifting range for the upcoming festive season. A new flavour we’re looking at launching consists of strawberry-flavoured chocolate with a soft-centre, wild forest honey with freeze-dried strawberry powder. I always craft my chcolates keeping in mind two things – flavour and texture.
On wise words for the new crop
Never compromise on your manufacturing standards. The key to a good product is to always source the highest quality ingredients.