Local chocolates with Bhutanese ingredients enter the market

Local chocolates with unique ingredients like chilli, seabuckthorn and walnut are being produced under the Yiga Chocolates brand.

These ingredients are brought from Thimphu. Others include cardamom from Tsirang, Gooseberry (amla), persimmon and citrus from Punakha and Bhutanese liquor.

Yiga Chocolates is a brand that brings authentic Bhutanese chocolate to meet the demand in the Bhutanese market for local chocolates. It also produces different flavored chocolates for gifts with good packaging especially for events.

The founder of Yiga Chocolates, Kinley Pelden, said this is the  best time for Bhutan to invest in such local businesses as globalization and change in consumer landscape places high value on personalized goods produced in small batches with the least environmental impact and high social value, which all aligns with Gross National Happiness principles.

Kinley Pelden said the idea of making chocolate started in 2015, when her 12 year old daughter, a culinary adventurer asked her about making chocolates.  They tried a concoction of cocoa powder, milk and caramelized sugar.

“It turned out delicious but remained gooey even after three days in freezer. Not satisfied with the outcome, we googled the basics, and learnt how to mould compound chocolates normally used for confectioneries,” said Kinley Pelden.

She became more curious and started to explore fine chocolates and Bhutanese inclusions of wild and natural fruits, berries and spices, which are equally healthy and popular to create a super healthy chocolate.  Seeing the opportunity, she gave the chocolate and confectionery ideas to many people. When no one pursued the idea she thought of producing the local chocolate on her own.

She started out in April 2017 after Loden Foundation approved her proposal.

Kinley Pelden said that their handcrafted fine chocolate comes in two categories; bars and truffles both flavored with Bhutanese fruits, berries, spices and liquor.

She also imports chocolate couverture and hazelnut.

Kinley Pelden said the chocolates will be retailed from existing mainstream outlets like Chunidhing Foods, other super markets and cafes.  The exact points of sale will be made known through a website and social media soon.

She received collateral free loan of Nu 500,000 from the Loden Foundation which was enough to cover the cost of a machine and basic equipment.

Challenges she faces in her business include the overwhelming gap between theoretical plan and the actual implementation. Though she had the blue print of the project, it could not get detailed enough to capture the contingencies required, both on time and resources.

She said on the technical front, tempering process, the art of harnessing thermodynamics to get the right stable crystals, really needed practice over time, experience and keen observation. Further, chocolate is very sensitive to both temperature and humidity.

Yiga Chocolates has already registered for a trademark. She said trade marking generally protects a design that represents a brand or entity, from theft of identity and counterfeit activities.

So far Yiga Chocolates has employed two employees recruited through Direct Employment Scheme of the Ministry of labor.

In the future, Yiga Chocolate plans to grow Yiga as a dynamic and innovative chocolate business, aligned to the essences of our development principles and Buddhist prescripts.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu