Vegans craving chocolate-covered waffles can finally get a KitKat.

Nestle SA, the Swiss food giant, is launching KitKat V, a plant-based version of one of the world’s most popular chocolate bars, from Friday with planned distribution in 15 European countries, including the UK.

Unlike the classic KitKat, the vegan version uses a rice-based formula as a milk substitute, as Bloomberg News first revealed. This is one of the biggest launches of a vegan alternative from a major confectionery brand, which took two years to develop.

“We have four out of 10 consumers saying they are interested in switching to a more plant-based diet,” Corinne Gabler, Nestle’s head of confectionery in Europe, said in an interview. “This could be a significant market in the confectionery industry.”

The vegan chocolate market is already valued at $533 million and is expected to more than double to $1.4 billion in 10 years.

Vegan foray

Small labels have begun their foray into milk chocolate alternatives, and now the big brands are following suit. Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Spruengli AG, known for its gold-foil-wrapped Easter bunnies, sells oat milk-based bars under the Hello brand.

Mars has introduced vegan versions of its Bounty, Topic and Galaxy bars, while Mondelez International Inc’s Cadbury launched a plant-based bar last year, presented as a vegan version of Dairy Milk.

However, there have been some setbacks, with Britain’s biggest grocer Tesco Plc recently stopping supplies of Mars Inc’s vegan version of its Galaxy chocolate bars. as a result of a dispute over labeling.

New product launches can also fail, as Nestle discovered when its Milkybar Wowsomes, with 30% less sugar, were pulled from shelves due to weak demand.

However, Nestle has high hopes for KitKat V and is starting with 300 tons with the ability to produce more, Gabler said. This compares to the tens of thousands of tonnes annually for KitKat staples in Europe. Although the main production is developed in York, England – the center of NestlĂ©’s chocolate innovation center – it will be located in Hamburg, Germany, where there is more capacity.

Retail prices

In less pleasant news during the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, KitKat V is likely to cost more than the regular version. This is because it is more expensive to produce due to more expensive ingredients and the need for strict measures to ensure that there are no traces of dairy products on the production lines, Nestle said.

During Nestle’s trials last year, KitKat V sold for about 90 pence ($1.06) in some stores, compared with 60 or 70 pence for the non-vegan version, Gabler said. The company is looking for efficiencies to make the gap as small as possible, she said.

Nestle tried many non-dairy alternatives, including oats, soy and almonds, before settling on its rice-based formula to achieve the creamy consistency familiar to fans of the non-vegan version, according to Louise Barrett, head of Nestle’s Confectionery Technology Centre. in York.

“It’s very difficult,” Barrett said. “Our R&D experts have been working to make it as close as possible.”


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