Meet Singapore food entrepreneur Anjali Gupta of Anjalichocolat. From handcrafted sustainable indulgences to hands-on workshops, she shares how she has grown her business into the premium chocolate brand it is known today.
Starting your own business may be daunting, but when you have the passion, skills, support of loved ones, and of course, a great product, it can be a successful and fulfilling venture. Just ask Anjali Gupta who founded Anjalichocolat when she was 50, an age where many would start planning their retirement.
The former banker, who often moved around the world with her family before settling in Singapore, decided it was time she “grabbed destiny with my own two hands” and pursue her passion for chocolate. Numerous culinary courses and professional programmes later, her namesake brand was born.
A one-stop destination
A small stall at PasarBella (a gourmet farmer’s market) in 2014 served as the starting point before she moved the business to the tranquil Loewen by Dempsey Hill. The current location serves as a production facility and workshop venue – “a one-stop destination for corporate gifting and team-building experiences”. In 2018, they shifted their retail operations to Tanglin Mall. In addition, they operate an online store, and are listed on several online platforms such as Lazada, Amazon, and Fairprice Marketplace.
Heart of success
Anjali describes her chocolates as an “affordable luxury” and reveals that her favourite food is, well, chocolate. When she first set up her business in Singapore, there were not many artisan chocolatiers who made and sold chocolates using fresh, natural ingredients. One could not easily get a box of chocolates which did not contain preservatives such as potassium sorbate which are often used to obtain a longer shelf life.
Her vision was, and still is, to provide freshly made chocolates, using fine ingredients with no artificial flavours or preservatives. In addition, she strives to be a brand with a heart. As the owner of a chocolate business, she is painfully aware of the “bitter side of chocolate” : sustainability and other problems faced by cocoa farmers. She is grateful for the sustainable practices followed by her couverture suppliers. She keeps in touch with them, and is well-informed of the programmes undertaken by them to address the issues.
“When I started out, I personally interacted with a large number of my customers. Now that the business has grown, most clients I speak to are corporate customers looking to place larger orders, or are interested in customisation. All our customers, big and small, want the brand to be a mirror, meaning they want to be reflected in the brand. They demand that we source our ingredients sustainably.”
Every season, new packaging and new recipes keep customers happy and interested in Anjalichocolat products. But there are also customers who want to give a tried-and-tested luxury gift: classic flavours with no food colouring. Chinese New Year saw koi fish and rabbit chocolates, Mandarin oranges truffles and passionfruit caramel gold ingots. This Valentine’s Day, look forward to strawberry, raspberry and passionfruit hearts, while chocolate bunnies, hens and eggs will feature widely for Easter. The brand’s signature collection, From Singapore Lah, showcases unique bold flavours and ingredients such as Teh Tarik, Kaya Toast, Chinese 5 Spice, and Gula Melaka.
The Anjalichocolat experience
For a more personal experience, there are the chocolate-making workshops conducted at the chocolate studio at Loewen by Dempsey Hill. Set up in 2015, it is a place where the young and old can get their hands dirty and create their own chocolate. “People love coming for our workshops, and we used to be really busy,” she says.
While the Covid-19 outbreak made it difficult for her to continue the workshops, the chocolate retail business grew exponentially. The second half of 2022 saw a resurgence in demand for workshops, particularly from corporate clients looking to organise corporate team building events. In order to accommodate the increased demand for chocolates and workshops, the brand has taken on additional space at the Dempsey Hill location.
The newly expanded space can accommodate as many as 30 participants comfortably. Workshops such as chocolate truffle-making sessions will be ramped up even more in 2023. (We suggest booking early for the popular Easter egg decorating workshops as they make a comeback this year.)
Gupta has plans to expand the retail side of the business but don’t expect 20 or 30 stores in the next few years. She wants Anjalichocolat to remain a craft chocolate brand and may add another outlet while maintaining her robust online presence and corporate clients. Ultimately she values the connection with her customers. “I love coming up with different flavours. I love the interaction I have with the individual customer who’s interested in what I do. That’s what keeps me going.”