In a focused effort of much of the food industry to increase their plant-based offerings, Nestlé has announced that it is perfecting the formula for a vegan KitKat based on rice and is going to be soon available. These were the words of Alexander Von Maillot, head of Nestlé’s confectionery business.
The official launch date is unknown, but it will be this year for sure. The new KitKat will be called simply “KitKat V”, to highlight it being fully vegan. The availability of the chocolate bar will be in only selected markets at first, starting from the UK. Then a wider rollout will be done, depending on the success of the first batches of the new product. The USA isn't planned as yet, but will most definitely be one of the first markets where the new vegan KitKat will expand to, if successful.
KitKat made of rice: how?
The base of the new formula is rice milk. Whereas in the original KitKat bars the milk chocolate is typical milk from cows, here it is 100% substituted with milk made from rice. The process isn’t as straightforward as it may seem, as this plant-based milk has a very different consistency and mouthfeel than cows’ milk, causing a much higher risk that consumers will be put off by the thinner taste of this milk.
The new KitKat V bar took about two years of research to be ready for mass production. The taste of the rice milk was tweaked in order to match more closely the non plant-based milk. The main challenge here was that the blend of milk, cocoa and sugar would be creamy enough to not distance itself too much from what consumers were used to when opening a KitKat bar. Other substitutes of milk were tried as well, like soy and almond, but according to Nestlé those were prone to cause some off-notes that were not desired in the final product. Rice milk was found to be the best, as quite neutral in taste, with which a good addition of cocoa and sugar would create a final mix that was pretty close to the original recipe with cows’ milk.
“Demand for plant-based food is growing everywhere,” von Maillot said in a phone interview. “KitKat was a logical choice, as it’s by far the biggest brand and a global brand.”. Understandably. One of the biggest brand’s name of the confectionery branch of Nestlé is indeed KitKat. Over the last years it went through a lot of transformations, developing a plethora of different flavors. It is not odd these days to buy a Caramel Cappuccino KitKat, or a Peanut Butter one. This without even including the vast choice of flavors of that KitKat is being sold internationally.
It was thus pretty obvious to have a vegan KitKat version as well. Considering that lots of Nestlé’s competitors are moving into the same direction of making plant-based milk chocolate products, KitKat V is a natural choice for the food giant. Lindt & Spruengli AG has released oat based milk chocolate bars under its Hello label. In the UK, a vegan version of Galaxy bar is already on sale, and the chocolate giant Cadbury has announced plans to produce alternatives to milk chocolate based on vegan products. The world of food is increasingly listening to vegans and lactose-intolerant people demanding products that are as delicious as ever, but not based on animal milks. Both for health and ethical reasons.
How big is the vegan chocolate market, anyway?
Quite. With reports showing it is heading towards a very bright future. As Transparency Market Research reports, mostly millennials are keen in buying vegan alternatives to the usual sweets and desserts they’re used to eating, largely due to these alternatives being perceived as healthier and lighter. Lower in fat content, and cholesterol, with no lactose whatsoever and often also less caloric than classic milk, also non-vegans are buying plant-based milk alternatives as a conscious effort to be healthier and have the food they love to be less detrimental to their diets.
The vegan chocolate brands analysed in the study were from well-known producers as Alter Eco (United States), Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG (Switzerland), Mondelez International (Cadbury) (United Kingdom), Lulu’s Chocolate (United States), Barry Callebaut (Switzerland), Chocolove (United States), Chocolate Inspirations (United States), Theo Chocolate (United States), Purdys Chocolatier (Canada) and Ecofina GMBH (iChoc) (Germany).
Current size of the vegan chocolate market is valued at $995.5 millions, as per 2020. By 2027 the forecast is set to grow to $1987.9 millions. A huge step forward for a market that is seen as traditionally driven by offline sales, which is expected to be so in the forthcoming years too.
The positive forecast for the vegan chocolate market goes till 2027. Most of the growth will be in developed countries, with Europe and the USA to lead the way for the other markets. The increasingly large choice offered to consumers to purchase vegan chocolate and related products is seen as a “offer creates demand”, typical of many new markets. The usual higher prices that these types of chocolates raise is preventing it from becoming widespread in most of the poorest markets, stifling their popularity and increasing the difference in the Europe/USA markets vs rest of the world.
The choice of Nestlé to use one of its biggest names in association with the vegan world is a sign of these markets trends. Consumers are increasingly willing to spend more for a healthier, and cruelty-free, product. The taste stigma that surrounded vegan ingredients is seen less and less as a problem, and it is probably going to be lifted for the largest part of the younger population in the upcoming years, anyway.
The new KitKat V is not the first try of Nestlé in making vegan products. The company introduced sausage substitutes last year and has been making ice cream and coffee products that are 100% vegans since many months now. KitKat V is the natural response to the markets’ demands and the challenges of the competitors’.