Chocolatiers to Grace Kelly, J F Kennedy, Winston Churchill and the Shah of Iran, have made their way to India.
Du Rhône, Switzerland’s foremost chocolate brand, has collaborated with Liberty Luxuries Private Limited to open a stand-alone boutique in Mumbai’s posh Peddar Road. It goes to New Delhi next, where the boutique will be in a luxury mall.
The 143-year-old chocolate brand is as natural as it gets: no preservatives, and absolutely no artificial colours. “They are classic handmade chocolates,” says Federico Marangoni, the young CEO of the brand.
“We do not, for instance, use chillies or any such ingredients in the chocolates. Instead, we stick to flavours like raisins, nuts, coffee, hazelnuts, raspberry, and orange. Our biggest selling chocolate is this beautiful Mocha Glacé that melts in the mouth,” says Marangoni.
Marangoni was named CEO in 2014 and has expanded the chocolaterie across the world, from Dubai to Shanghai, Riyadh, Taipei, New York, London to Hamburg, Berlin, and now Mumbai. The heritage of Du Rhône is as storied as the chocolate making processes they employ:
The chocolaterie was set up in 1875 by Mr. Pertuiset at 2, rue du Rhône. It soon gained a reputation for making the best pralines in the city, and in the heydays, people in horse-drawn carriages would line up outside the chocolaterie for their fix.
In September 2016, IBM selected Du Rhône Chocolatier to test its famous Chef Watson programme to develop cognitive computing applications that can help people discover new ideas, from creating new recipes to improving medical research. Recipes were designed using artificial intelligence.
Jean-Pascal Serignat, Master Chocolatier at Du Rhône, came up with three chocolates based on the flavours chosen by the programme: Moricoco, a blend of lime pulp, ginger, rum and grated coconut; Original, combining fennel, fresh coriander, and whole-grain mustard, and Barbade, with strawberry pulp, fresh basil, Modena balsamic vinegar and Sichuan pepper.
More than 15 trained chocolatiers use well-established artisanal processes to create chocolates based on recipes that are almost 100 years old.
At the chocolaterie and boutique, the team also crafts exquisite chocolate sculptures such as chocolate shoe and handbag. The adjacent tearoom serves hot chocolate and chocolate-infused coffee.
Across Switzerland, the tradition of making exquisite chocolates have been preserved by family-run maisons, and Du Rhône is the oldest chocolatier in Geneva. When a Swiss wants a chocolate, he goes to the local chocolaterie or patisserie, and not to the department store.
Du Rhône is as bespoke as it gets; it crafts chocolates to match a perfume when needed, or chocolates that can be served during wine tastings.
Japanese fine chocolate brand Royce and ITC’s Fabelle are close contenders, though not in the same league as Du Rhône. Royce, which is a far more modern brand, uses the finest ingredients, including cacao from South America, and hand-makes its range of chocolates in Hokkaido, in northern Japan. Among Royce’s classics are Nama Chocolates (Ghana Bitter and Ecuador Sweet), dark truffle-like chocolates coated with cacao powder.
Home-grown brand Fabelle, from ITC, which was launched at Bengaluru’s ITC Gardenia, are handmade in a chocolaterie outside Delhi. Cacao is sourced from Ghana, Ecuador, Sao Tome, Madagascar, Venezuela, and Ivory Coast, and the brand is sold through boutiques within ITC hotels, which double up as chocolateries.
The two were early entrants into India’s super-premium chocolate market and are distributed through far more chocolateries and boutiques across India.
In a quick conversation, Federico Marangoni talks to us about the brand and its history.
Q. It took you quite a while to come to India. What ultimately brings you here, and why Mumbai? A. India is said to be a tough market to crack, but we have great partners who were keen to open a boutique in Mumbai, where they are based. We are taking it slow, and have planned four stores over the next few years. India has a tradition of consuming large amounts of chocolate. But our chocolates aren’t mass products, so we are not planning any aggressive expansion. Q. Why did you choose to open a stand-alone boutique instead of setting up base in a mall, where you will see far more footfalls? A. In India, we do not expect too many walk-in clients. Instead, we will reach out to clients from the world of corporate and luxury, who will be introduced to Swiss chocolate-making traditions, and our various flavours. We are experimenting with some exclusive flavours for India, for instance, peanut butter, but nothing is finalised as yet. The boutique is meant to serve as a showcase for the brand, which is why Peddar Road makes sense. Q. What goes into making a good chocolate? A. Years of tradition and heritage, the knowledge of what actually makes a chocolate last long, and the right processes, which are as important as knowing how to store chocolates, and how to eat them. For instance, a chocolate should be stored in a moist, dark place, and should not be exposed to too much temperature fluctuations. While eating one, let it melt in your mouth instead of biting into it. Every single piece of Du Rhône chocolate at is handcrafted. We would never industrially produce our chocolates because it is antithetical to the heritage of luxury. Deepali Nandwani is a journalist who who keeps a close watch on the world of luxury.