Indians have long had a love affair with sugar.

On virtually every street corner in the country’s cities, visitors can find local sweet shops selling hundreds of types of sugary confections, from gulab jamun (fried balls of dough soaked in sugar syrup), to barfi (a sweet made from thickened milk with lots of sugar).

Now, that penchant for sweets – and the country’s fast-growing middle class – is creating a burgeoning industry: locally sourced artisanal chocolate. Currently, artisanal bars account for just $3m of India’s $2.8bn chocolate industry, but the industry is expected to grow. A big bump is anticipated around the gift-giving season of Diwali later this month as Indians seek out novel and trendy replacements for the traditional gift of local sweets.

India’s first bean-to-bar chocolates, made with locally-sourced cacao, started hitting shelves about four years ago. The nation now has six such makers, expected to balloon to 40 in three years, according to Nitin Chordia, India’s first certified chocolate taster.

With disposable incomes growing fast, Indians are willing to pay handsomely for the homegrown bars. A bar of locally produced bean-to-bar chocolate can cost $4.50, about three times the price of a locally mass-produced bar.

These artisanal bars typically have no artificial additives, a higher cocoa content and less sugar. With India ranking among the world’s top three nations in diabetes and accounting for almost 70 million cases, the more natural bars are also being touted as a healthier alternative by some physicians and even the government itself, which is providing farmers federal aid to help grow the cacao plant.

“Indians don’t crave chocolate. They crave sugar,” explains Chordia. “Aside from traditional Indian sweets, which most people eat almost every day, even the mass-produced chocolate here is mostly sugar. So we’re educating people about chocolate.”

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