Paul and Mike, an artisanal 'bean to bar' chocolate producer headquartered in Kerala, are basking in success after their enterprise became the first Indian chocolate company to get a silver medal in the International Chocolate Awards (2020-2021 global final) for their '64% Dark Sichuan Pepper and Orange Peel Vegan Chocolate.'
"We have been experimenting with flavours and this particular variant was targeted at the Chinese market. As Sichuan pepper is widely used in Chinese and South-East Asian cuisine, we thought this variant would be ideal for their palate. The chocolate is vegan. Candied orange peel is used to add texture," reveals Vikas Temani, business head and creator of Paul And Mike.
In May 2019, Paul and Mike introduced the award-winning chocolate. When company executives attended the International Chocolate Fair in Shanghai in December 2019, they unveiled this specific type, which was quickly sold out. They discovered that the hot-and-sweet combination was also popular in the Indian market.
"The chocolate has heat and sweetness. It produces a tingling sensation on the tongue and people enjoy that. A bar costs ₹250. Right from inception, our idea was to sell fine, artisanal chocolate at affordable prices. Even mass produced popular European brands cost more," Vikas says.
For the last two years, the 'bean to bar' chocolate makers has won bronze medals in the Asia Pacific finals and have sent their goods to the world finals.
The brand's name has an unusual backstory. South America produces fine flavour chocolate, whereas Africa is the major supplier of bulk grade chocolate. A team visited a few South American locations around four years ago to learn about the growing and fermentation of premium cocoa.
"We met several farmers and fermenters there and they gave us the confidence that Kerala would be ideal to grow fine cocoa. Among them were Paul and Mike, two friendly farmers who went out of the way to help us understand the process and how to get the best from the cocoa beans. We decided to name the brand 'Paul And Mike' in their honour. Moreover, customer feedback proved that the name struck a chord with them," says Vikas.
Paul and Mike's farms in Kochi and Coimbatore dry and ferment cocoa. Furthermore, wet cocoa is procured from select farmers in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and the chocolates contain only natural fruits, nuts, spices, and floral distillates.
"Since we are backed by Synthite, a natural food ingredients company, we get the best spices and natural extracts for our chocolates," Vikas added.
Paul and Mike also offer a broad range of Indian-inspired flavours such as Indian Style Thandai, Peppermint Gelato, Sitaphal (custard apple), Jamun (java plum), Alphonso Mango, and others.
"Jaggery, for instance, is sourced from two brothers in Pune who approached us for new options in jaggery. They wanted to know if we could develop a chocolate with jaggery. In the same way, we decided that we would use Indian fruits such as jamun, mango, custard apple, and rasbhari (golden berry) instead of blueberry, cranberry and so on. In fact, for many Indian customers, these were the first variants of Paul and Mike that they bought. Thandai, which is popular in North India, reached the market during Holi last year and was a huge success," says Vikas.
The three-year-old firm now has 36 chocolate variants on the market and plans to expand the brand's market share with 100 variants this year.
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