Leading confectionery brand Hershey has debuted an oat milk version of its popular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a new oat milk chocolate bar with sea salt and almonds.
Hershey has confirmed the launch of the new products following a viral image spotted on the RiteAid website last month. The new products are expected to hit stores next month.
“We are excited to introduce these delicious, plant-based options,” Teal Liu, brand manager of Better For You at Hershey, said in a statement announcing the launch. Liu said that the new products offer more options for “chocolate lovers looking for plant-based alternatives.”
While the news of the vegan peanut butter cups has created quite the buzz, it’s not Hershey’s first vegan chocolate. The company debuted Oat Made — chocolate bars made with oat milk — in 2021, which also garnered positive consumer reviews.
The company announced it had long-term plans to make plant-based and healthier chocolate, as part of the ‘Better-for-you’ category in 2021. It followed a co-investment into Bonumose, a startup that develops plant-based food ingredients, including natural sugars.
Last summer, Hershey applied for a patent for using roasted grains including corn, oats, millet, rice, sorghum, or wheat in its vegan chocolate products as a replacement for dairy.
Hershey said that nut and seed oils, which are commonly used in dairy-free chocolate, produce an inferior end product and that it is engaged in R&D to make allergen-free recipes that are healthier than conventional chocolate. Hershey says its specially milled and roasted flours can replicate the authentic mouthfeel and texture of conventional chocolate.
Vegan chocolate demand
The vegan chocolate market is expected to reach $1 billion by 2027. Other confectionery giants including Mars, Lindt, and Cadbury’s have all launched vegan chocolate.
Last year, Mars partnered with Perfect Day to launch chocolate bars made with precision fermentation dairy. Lindt uses oat milk, and Cadbury uses an almond paste. Food giant Nestlé launched a vegan version of the popular KitKat bar in the U.K.
According to the listing on Rite Aid, the vegan Reese’s Cups will cost a bit more than conventional ones. It lists a 1.4-ounce package of two plant-based Reese’s Cups at $2.49 — about $1 more than a regular package.
The new products are dairy-free but they aren’t a low calorie food. While Hershey has not yet released the full nutrition facts for the oat milk cups, it did confirm they will have the same number of calories as traditional Reese’s Cups’ 210 calories.