Luxury Swiss chocolatier Du Rhône, the confectioner of choice for Winston Churchill and Grace Kelly, launched at Mumbai’s Luxury Lifestyle Weekend last week. The brand’s first store is due to open in April in partnership with Liberty Luxuries Pvt. Ltd, the company which brought the Japanese confectionery brand Yoku Moku to India.

Think Switzerland, and apart from picture-perfect Alpine villages, what comes to mind immediately is chocolate and cheese. Swiss cows are known to yield the world’s best-quality milk, which in turn obviously lends itself to a tradition of equally high-quality dairy products and chocolates. Pioneering confectionery brands like Cailler and Lindt & Sprüngli set up factories in the 19th century and made Switzerland a chocolate-making centre.

However, the concept of luxury handmade Swiss chocolate is less well known and is a tradition continued by local family-run maisons scattered across the 26 Swiss cantons. Du Rhône is one such boutique in Geneva which was founded in 1875, making it the oldest chocolatier in the city. With a team of 15 people and an annual production of only 12-15 tons, every single piece of chocolate is prepared by hand, according to time-tested recipes. “We are very clear that we don’t want to go in the direction of industrial food because it is antithetical to the heritage of luxury," says Federico Marangoni, chief executive officer of the brand. “I think there is a global shift in focus, especially in places where people are well educated about food, that the idea of less is more," he adds.

Federico Marangoni, chief executive officer of Du Rhône, in Mumbai
Federico Marangoni, chief executive officer of Du Rhône, in Mumbai

He also very clearly demarcates Du Rhône’s space in the Swiss chocolate universe. “While brands like Lindt and Cailler are ambassadors for Swiss chocolate in the world, Swiss people themselves go to their local chocolatier and patisserie. These are two pretty different markets as the majority of the exports comprise the mass brands, while very little of the fine chocolate actually leaves the country and is consumed locally," says Marangoni. The average Swiss person consumes about 12kg of chocolate annually—the highest in the world—and this is probably why these luxury handmade Swiss chocolates are rarely seen outside the country.

“Chocolate is a basic product but what you can take to the next level is the quality of ingredients that constitute it—from the best-quality cacao beans to cream, milk, butter, sugar and other things that go into it," says Marangoni.

One of Du Rhône’s specialities is making completely customizable products, like creating chocolates to match a perfume launch or wine tastings or creating individual stories through chocolate. The brand doesn’t do experimental flavours and sticks to time-tested classic combinations like chocolate ganache with raspberry, orange, peanuts, hazelnuts and pistachios. The Mocca Glacé has been the brand’s best-seller for over a century.

Du Rhône will open its flagship store on Mumbai’s Pedder Road. Prices start at Rs800 for a box of four assorted chocolates

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