Photo courtesy: Läderach
By Shibani Bawa
After a successful unveiling of the Swiss craft chocolate brand, Läderach’s first store in New Delhi’s swanky DLF Emporio, LuxeBook caught up for an exclusive tete-e-tete with the scion of this chocolatier family, Elias Läderach, on their plans for the India market. 
The Läderach history goes back to 1970, when Rudolf Läderach Jr. created an innovative method of making chocolate truffle shells that could be sold to hotels and other chocolatiers who then finished the products with their own filling to sell them under their own brand name. The decades-long family business has come a long way since early days and carved a niche for itself amongst the highest echelons of fine confections. Today, these luscious chocolates, truffles, pralines and tablets that are hand-crafted and made exclusively in Switzerland are shipped to various countries across the globe. After making a mark in the USA, Canada, UK, China, the Middle East and Singapore, Läderach has made a foray into India in partnership with DS Foods Ltd, a part of one of India’s leading FMCG conglomerates, Dharampal Satyapal Group (DS Group). 
Photo courtesy: Läderach
The hype around the much-loved Swiss chocolate brand was palpable even before the official launch at New Delhi’s glitzy DLF Emporio. Social media was abuzz with many luxury influencers narrating stories about enjoying these gourmet chocolates during memorable holidays in Switzerland, or their loved ones carrying back these delicious treats for them from the beautiful alpine country. It is this love and appreciation for Läderach that prompted the family to venture into the Indian market. The signature offerings of the brand are the large handcrafted slabs of Frischschoggi or fresh chocolate. So, it was only appropriate for the talented confectioner and member of the Läderach family responsible for innovation and production, Elias Läderach, to conduct a masterclass during the launch in Delhi where guests could make customized slabs of Läderach with their favourite mix of ingredients.

Elias Läderach
Elias Läderach, photo courtesy Läderach
We caught up with Elias Läderach, winner of World Chocolate Masters 2018, the world’s largest competition dedicated to creativity with chocolate, on all things chocolate as well as their plans for the Indian market. Following are some excerpts from our conversation.

Photo courtesy Läderach
Indians love Läderach! What makes Läderach so special? 
If we talk specifically about our chocolate, what makes us stand out is the freshness. Many people associate freshness with fruits, vegetables and salads, but not necessarily with chocolate. Fresh chocolate is much richer in flavour and quality than a chocolate that is several months or a year old. And freshness is really the secret behind our quality because we are one of the few companies that source the cocoa beans ourselves and manage the whole supply chain up to our own stores – for every bag of cocoa we know the partners in the origin countries, and even the farmer from whom it is sourced.  
Why is now the right time to make your foray into India? 
We began to venture into international markets in response to the many tourists from various countries claiming they loved our products and wanted them to be available in their countries. That’s how we spread our footprint in the United States, the UK, and now in India. We already had a lot of tourists buying our chocolates, as well as wealthy families that wanted to gift our products at weddings. That’s when we realized that Indians appreciate good chocolate and they’re willing to spend adequately for quality chocolate. So that’s why we think it’s a good time for us to be in India now. 
What are your plans for the Indian market?  
The first step was to find the right partner because if we franchise, we take a lot of time and are very picky about working with a partner that really fits our values in terms of quality, as well as the retail experience that we like to offer. We are happy to partner with the DS Group, which is also a family-owned business. After Delhi, we plan to open five to seven stores in the next few years; we are evaluating various cities for the same.  
Are you planning to introduce all your products in India? 
All the main categories are available in India, but not in all the flavours. Our iconic product is the Frischschoggi – we have about 12 flavours of it in India currently but overall we have about 24 flavours in Switzerland. Even in pralines, we have about 15 varieties here but overall we have about 35-40. It is quite a challenge with the customs and labelling, but we are working on it.  
What are your thoughts on sustainability in the world of luxury chocolates? 
We are very particular about sustainability, and that is one of the primary reasons for us to partner with the DS Group in India. Sustainability was also one of the main reasons that prompted us to source cocoa on our own. While we do like to have the top quality cocoa produced to our high standards, we also ensure the right social conditions for the staff. For instance, in Ghana we source from four villages that produce cocoa exclusively for us. Since they had insufficient water, we built wells in each of the four villages. We also help some of our suppliers to have an additional income besides growing cocoa, so invest in people by teaching them skills like baking that can supplement income, especially if a cocoa crop fails.  
What are the current trends in the world of craft chocolate? 
There are various trends such as vegan chocolate, healthy chocolate that is low in sugar and so on, but I must add here that we don’t compromise on the quality or taste profile just to create a product that is trendy. While most dark chocolate is vegan since it does not contain milk, last year we introduced a vegan milk chocolate that we developed over some time. Another trend that I am noticing in food, in general, is that we’re going back to very easy to understand and simple recipes, made with very good ingredients. Our Frischschoggi is a wonderful example of this. In keeping with ‘conscious consumption’, I want people to enjoy and indulge in our chocolate that is truly good quality – ours is not a mass product that people buy just to fill their stomach.  
Did you get any special words of advice from your mentors? 
My father always told us that while we must stick to the values of the family and the company, we must also change or rethink the business model every few years. He really encourages us to be bold in trying new things and changing business models. 
What advice would you give to young chocolate makers embarking on this journey?
It is very important to dream big and don’t give up! Be ambitious, push for it and learn from the best. Also, don’t get discouraged when someone criticizes you – if you can take it in a good way you can really learn from criticism and even profit from it. 
How would you like people to enjoy Läderach? 
I encourage people to enjoy Läderach chocolate very consciously. You should indulge with all five senses – look at it, touch it, when you break it you should hear the snap, smell it and when you bite it, let it melt on your tongue. Also, enjoying our chocolates with the right people and in a nice ambience makes all the difference.