PUNE: Ferrero, the Italian chocolate maker, is doubling its investment in India as it develops a "tropical portfolio" of products geared to local tastes and climatic conditions.

Roberto Grasso, managing director at Ferrero India, told the Economic Times that the business had overtaken Nestlé and was now one of the top players in the chocolate market, where its brands include Kinder and Ferrero Rocher.

But he also stated that market share was not a priority. "My task is to be less numerical and focus on gaining as much trust and confidence as we can from our consumers," he said.

Increasing the firm's commitment to the country is one aspect of that approach, with some Rs 1,600 crore being poured into manufacturing and the company's only research and development laboratory outside of Europe, in Baramati, over the next few years.

"Because of the tough climatic conditions in India, it is tough to bring every chocolate here," Grasso noted. "Which is why we have created a special 'tropical portfolio' to cater to the Indian consumer and also countries with similar climatic conditions."

Over time, Ferrero has moved from importing raw materials to sourcing 90% within India as it works with local suppliers to improve the quality of, for example, the milk it uses in its chocolate.

And, via its Kinder Joy product, it is also a major player in the Indian toy market. "As of today, we develop 1.3bn toys annually in India," said Grasso. "This year, we have also done 80 designs in-house in India. Our designs are unique that cannot be copied.

"You can have many products in the market, but it is important to have emotional attachment with the toy," he added. "It takes a lot of skill that cannot be developed in a year or two."

Nurturing such skills is essential to the way Ferrero does business. "We measure our success with the satisfaction we get from our consumers," Grasso said.

"During our board meetings, we focus on the consumer. We do look at our competitors, we respect them, but we are strict in our way of doing things."

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff