A 225-Year-Old Sweet Shop Is Closing Because People Want to Eat Candy Bars

Millennials want chocolate, not the traditional desserts sold at New Delhi’s historic Ghantewala store.

(Photo: Flickr)

Jul 25, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Mughal emperors sent their servants there to pick up desserts, and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a fan of the confections too. For 225 years, residents of and visitors to New Delhi enjoyed the traditional Indian sweets sold at Ghantewala, a family-run business in the heart of the bustling metropolis. But now the historic shop has been forced to shut its doors, and it appears consumers’ modern affinity for Western candies is to blame.

“People nowadays are reluctant to buy Indian sweets and traditional snacks; they now prefer chocolates and pastries. Even my children prefer burgers, pizzas, or cakes,” Sushant Jain, the eighth generation of Jains to operate Ghantewala, told BBC News.

Jain didn’t specify how much Ghantewala’s sales of sweets—such as its famous sohan halwa, a confection made of wheat flour, sugar, almond, and pistachio—had declined before he closed the shop. However, India has become one of the world’s hottest markets for chocolate.

Chocolate sales doubled to $857 million between 2008 and 2011, and Western candy makers are seeing the dollar signs. In March, Mars, the company behind candy bars such as Snickers and Twix, announced plans to open its first factory in India.

Consumption of Western candy is primarily being driven by more well-off millennials. They perceive chocolate as a status symbol and as healthier than traditional Indian desserts. Sweets such as sohan halwa are made with ghee, a clarified butter thats packed with saturated fat. Some people worried about their cholesterol levels are ditching items made with ghee for chocolate.

Inside Ghantewala Halwai. (Photo: Flickr)

Eating a few bites of dark chocolate instead of traditional Indian sweets is one thing; chowing down on candy bars is quite another. With the arrival of fast food and candy, India’s weight problem has expanded. A 2014 study published in the medical journal Lancet found that one in five Indians is now obese. Forty to 60 percent of urban residents are estimated to be obese.

Sohan halwa. (Photo: Flickr)

Ghantewala also seems to have been plagued by a few legal troubles and was recently smacked with a pollution violation by New Delhi officials, but it appears the turn to chocolate bars was the final nail in the coffin. “We are no longer getting the footfall we require to keep this shop going,” Jain said. The former shop owner is left feeling that he has done “something wrong” and is “letting down my forefathers.”