First Zero-Waste Chocolate Lets You Eat Guilt-Free
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this delicious confection doesn't leave a trace (unless you eat too much of it –– then it's on you).
By Maroosha Muzaffar
It might be shaped like a regular chocolate bar, but the similarities end there. First, it comes in curious flavors: lavender, coconut and cinnamon, banana, masala chai, red rose. And the packaging is more work of art than the kind of wrap you’d find on a Hershey’s bar. But the most intriguing element of this sweet treat from India is that it claims to be the world’s first zero-waste chocolate. Guilt-free? It’s pretty close.
Kocoatrait uses a combination of technology and natural ingredients to produce a bar that has minimal impact on the environment –– from production to consumption to disposing of the packaging, which is 100 percent reusable. “It becomes part of the circular economy,” explains chocolatier and creator Nitin Chordia.
The seed for Kocoatrait was planted soon after a backpacking trip in Belgium –– a mecca for fine chocolate –– in 2013. Chordia had quit his job as a retail business consultant and was looking “to invest in something of my own,” he recalls. While in Belgium, he met Martin Christy, a leading voice in the fine chocolate industry. A few weeks later, Christy invited Chordia to a one-day chocolate appreciation course in the U.K. He went and came back convinced he had found his calling. He joined the Level 1 chocolate tasters’ accreditation program at the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting in the U.K. Chordia then became India’s first globally certified chocolate taster.
At home in Chennai, he began with small batches from local cacao beans. To start with, his firm — which is called Cocoatrait; the zero-waste chocolate is called “Kocoatrait” — focused on introducing fine chocolate to India. Chordia and his wife, Poonam, held chocolate-tasting classes and certification courses. By 2018, their students started asking them why they didn’t have their own chocolate brand. The couple decided to take the plunge.
Take a bite of the coconut and cinnamon, for instance. Let it sit on your tongue, and allow the flavors to seep out.
The challenge? The eco-conscious couple were entering an industry that’s notorious for its unsustainable practices. In 2018, University of Manchester researchers found that a bar of chocolate takes 1,000 liters of water to produce, and that the chocolate industry in the U.K. generates 2.1 tons of carbon emissions annually. That’s the equivalent of what El Paso, Texas, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, produce in total in a year.
The Chordias decided they would do things differently. It began with the search for a more sustainable and eco-friendly wrapper. “I wanted to make sure that the outer packaging for chocolate is without any plastic or paper,” Chordia says. That’s when he stumbled upon the idea of reclaimed cotton and cocoa bean husks. Not only is the combination biodegradable, it’s also ultra-thin, so the bar occupies less space on shop shelves, and is lighter to transport, reducing its carbon footprint.
This is a revelation in the chocolate industry. But turn the wrappers inside out and you’ll find another surprise. Each is designed with mandala art — intricate geometric patterns that in Asian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shintoism represent beauty and act as spiritual tools and meditation aids. The wrappers also carry habit trackers — calendar-like tools that let you check whether you’ve stuck with your routine. “It can be used again as a greeting card,” Chordia explains. The idea? To make the wrapper something worth preserving, so consumers don’t reflexively throw it in the bin.
The chocolate itself is made using unrefined sugar and natural, organically grown ingredients. It’s available in 11 flavors — aside from those mentioned earlier, there’s sukku coffee, pink rose, dark, jaggery, lemongrass and Irish cream coffee. Many of the flavors are Indian, but all ingredients are sourced from local communities and farms. And you’ll want to relish them. Take a bite of the coconut and cinnamon, for instance. Let it sit on your tongue, and allow the flavors to seep out. The spicy sweetness of cinnamon, the creaminess of coconut and the punch of chocolate combine to take your taste buds on a tour de force they’ve never known.
Each bar costs between $3 and $4. Demand is growing: The chocolates are already available at most sustainable food stores across India, and can be ordered online through the Cocoatrait website (within India, for now). But Chordia has started receiving queries from sustainable and organic stores in other countries too.
A few other chocolatiers are also offering sustainable and eco-friendly products. Seed and Bean chocolates in the U.K., for instance, insists its wrappers are zero-waste: They’re made from a flexible cellulose film built from eucalyptus wood pulp. But the chocolate’s ingredients travel thousands of miles from the Dominican Republic. Kocoatrait’s use of local beans makes it the sole claimant to a bean-to-bar zero-waste chocolate. “Even though attempts have been made to make chocolate more eco-friendly and sustainable, there has not been an attempt to make it 100 percent zero-waste,” says Chordia.
It’s another factor that makes this confection even sweeter. Once you’ve sampled one of the unique flavors, you can use the wrapper as a piece of artwork to decorate your walls — a lasting reminder of the favor you’re doing the environment.
- Maroosha Muzaffar