New Delhi: A visit to any grocery store today to satiate cravings for chocolate will likely lead you to buying a certain product. Defined by its dark-brown coloured packaging with brightly coloured text and taking its name from the parent company of Gujarati origin, the chocolate bar is a sight for many sore eyes.
We are talking, of course, about Amul Chocolate, manufactured by the dairy cooperative that turned 75 this year. But the chocolates didn’t always look like this nor did they come in all the varieties of today; rather it is a result of an evolution that took place over 40 years, since Amul first began manufacturing chocolates.
Having been around for over seven decades, there’s plenty of nostalgia packed into each product. In July, a Twitter post of pictures on Indian history included an image of an Amul gift box of chocolates, dating back to 1985.
“Pyaar ki meethi bhaint (The sweet gift of love),” the tagline on the gift box reads.
“Oh gosh they were all so good. I ranked them Crisp > Coffee > Bitter > Orange > Fruit and Nut > Milk,” columnist Mihir Sharma said.
Oh gosh they were all so good. I ranked them Crisp > Coffee > Bitter > Orange > Fruit and Nut > Milk https://t.co/hkmS5IFYy9
— Mihir Sharma (@mihirssharma) July 20, 2021
Other tweets recalled memories associated with the chocolate or receiving a box of the goodies.
“Got a tin box full of assorted chocolates for my fifth birthday back in 1985. I am still in love with Amul chocolates but I think they should definitely bring back Coffee and Crisp,” posted Twitter user Aninda Sardar.
Another user, Neha Banka said, “The packaging and the taste of Amul chocolates was entirely something else back then.”
“I remember receiving them as a Rakhi gift from my cousins. Not just that, my grandmother used to offer me these whenever I used to visit her since she knew I had a sweet tooth. I have a granddaughter now and I feel I would have enjoyed sharing that piece of my growing years with her,” 57-year-old Aishna Prakash told ThePrint.
Prakash, a homemaker, also recalled how the chocolates used to come in small square sizes.
However, despite the strong nostalgia connect, Amul’s latest branding, and taste, has appealed to its older clients too.
For 52-year-old Poonam Rani, also a homemaker, the current design is a refreshing modern take.
“Amul Crisp used to be one of my favourites. The taste was different from other standard chocolates. Though the old packaging evokes nostalgia, their current minimalistic packaging is rather refreshing to the eye,” she said.
Rajesh Singh, who is in his 50s and used to be a Cadbury fan, took to Amul thanks to his love for dark chocolates.
“My search for 90 per cent dark and even darker chocolates led me to Amul, and I discovered their range of single-origin chocolates in addition to the range of dark ones,” he said.
Also read: Amul turns to Lord Krishna, Goumata to counter PETA & hail India’s cultural links with milk
21 minutes of chocolate fantasy
In 2018, Amul, well aware of its public appeal, posted a 21-minute video of its chocolate manufacturing process. The video, which had plenty of visuals of chocolate in all its forms, explained how the end product is made, right from harvesting, roasting and fermentation of cacao seeds from trees located in South America, Africa and Asia.
Last year, during the first Covid-19 lockdown, Amul put together some of its television advertisements from over the years in a series called ‘Amul Classics’.
On Public Demand, we are pleased to share with you the #Amul advertisement from the 1990's during #Ramayan and #Mahabharat
– Chocolate – Boyfriend & Girlfriend pic.twitter.com/3xeMeH4hWl
— Amul.coop (@Amul_Coop) April 5, 2020
The series is indicative of how the ‘White Revolution‘, the initiative spearheaded by entrepreneur Verghese Kurien that made dairy farming self-sustainable in India, was replicated for the mass production of chocolate.
According to a 2018 Business Standard report, “For a while, Amul’s chocolate even gave the perennially popular Cadbury’s a run for their money. And then, inexplicably, they melted away into oblivion, at least as far as the retail market was concerned. Amul supplied the bulk of its chocolates to institutions as raw material for ice-cream, including to its own plants.”
However, by the 2010s, Amul chocolates made a comeback by emulating the packaging of foreign brands such as Lindt or Hershey’s, and focusing on flavours, dark chocolate in particular. It struck a chord with the people again, leading the cooperative to expand its manufacturing in 2016.
According to Amul’s managing director, R.S. Sodhi, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF) that makes Amul products was the only player to have cocoa content of up to 75 per cent in dark chocolates.
Eyeing a ‘dark revolution‘, the cooperative planned to launch chocolates with 90 per cent cocoa content, going up to 100 per cent.
“We decided to go with bigger-sized dark chocolate variants because the popular imported chocolates in the market at that time were of that size. We knew we could launch an equal or better quality of dark chocolate priced substantially lower, and we did,” Sodhi said, according to the Business Standard report.
Amul’s mass expansion in the 2010s came tied with its promotion of the health benefits of dark chocolate; by making the cocoa bitterness the selling point, it was Amul’s counter to the sugar-rich products offered by competitors.
A 2018 report by The Financial Express noted that Amul had capitalised on consumer preferences towards dark chocolate by having “over 25 variants that makeup about 85-90% of the company’s chocolate portfolio”.
GCMMF senior general manager (Planning and Marketing), Jayen Mehta told The Financial Express that “total sales [of Amul chocolates in 2018] across e-commerce channels crossed Rs 50 lakh, going up from around Rs 2 lakh in January ”.
Amul’s gambit appears to have paid off, with the product being just as ubiquitous now as it was in the 1970s and 80s.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)
Also read: Indian cooperatives need the Amul Model more than a Ministry of Cooperation