NEW DELHI : Chocolate maker Mondelez on Monday announced the launch of a new variant of its popular Dairy Milk chocolate with 30% less sugar as it seeks to attract health-conscious Indian consumers.

The chocolate will be introduced simultaneously in the UK and India, Deepak Iyer, managing director, Mondelez in India said in an interview, making it the chocolate maker’s first such effort to reduce sugar in its products in India.

In a huge shift, consumers are seeking better choices from companies that at one time made only a few products available to them, said Iyer.

“We want people to snack right, consumers want to indulge and as the leader of the chocolate category in India, we want to give them the offer," he said.

The new bar of chocolate that took over two years to develop and is set to hit the country’s top metros over the next few weeks is priced at 50, 10 higher than the regular Dairy Milk variant. The premium is because of the costs involved in bringing down the sugar and maintaining the taste, said Iyer. Mondelez also sells cookie brand Oreo and health drink Bournvita here.

The seven-decade-old Cadbury Dairy Milk is India’s biggest chocolate brand. Mondelez is the leader in India’s chocolate market with a 65% share.

The company is betting that indulgence-seeking consumers who are also health-conscious will opt for the low-sugar variant.

“We have done this sugar reduction on our largest brand," said Anil Viswanathan, director, marketing for chocolates, India, suggesting the heft Mondelez wants to put behind the launch.

Food and beverage makers across the board have launched healthier versions of some of their best-selling products to cater to more discerning urban shoppers.

While the country’s biggest cola companies have been offering low-calorie drinks to consumers, more recently biscuit makers have set out to offer cookies made from oats and ragi. Similar trends have been followed in diet chips, ready-to-cook oats, instant noodles, nutrition bars, etc.

Changing consumer preferences aside, competition in India’s 13,650 crore chocolate confectionery market has also picked pace, prompting Mondelez to add to its stable of offerings.

Over the last few years, Mondelez (formerly known as Cadbury India) has been launching more chocolates such as Cadbury Fuse, Cadbury Oreo, and bread-spreads such as Cadbury Spread, especially as companies such as Hershey, Ferrero, and Mars have scaled up brand launches and their reach in the market.

These companies are eyeing a younger demographic in the country that is now increasingly consuming chocolates as a snack. Competition helps fuel growth in the market, said Iyer.

Between 2019-2023 India’s confectionery market is expected to grow at an annual average pace of 9.3%, according to researcher Euromonitor. However, per capita consumption of chocolates remains low, at 120 gm per person a year.

That’s an opportunity Mondelez is looking to tap.

Last year the company also inaugurated a global research, development and quality centre in the country with an investment of $15 million to support new products and technologies for its global and local brands.

Iyer added that the company could launch more snacking options for Indian consumers. “Globally we have said that we’d like to be the snacking leaders. However, there has been so much to do between chocolate, biscuits, and candy and beverages in India, but all those ideas are on the table... it is too early to talk about it but over time we will launch more," he said.

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