At the start of the year, Swiss chocolatier Lindt released two vegan chocolate bars in the U.K, to coincide with Veganuary. Canada followed in February and now, the U.S. is getting a taste of the original and salted caramel incarnations. It’s not clear whether the hazelnut variety, launched in the U.K., will be part of the roll out.
Lindt stepped into the increasingly competitive vegan chocolate arena in 2021, to widespread positive reception though they faced some criticism came from nut allergy sufferers due to the blend of oat milk and nut paste that was used to mimic the creaminess of conventional dairy milk chocolate. The company hopes to replicate its success in U.K. and Canadian grocery stores within the U.S. Its launch comes after a Barry Callebaut report revealed that a majority of millennials and Gen-Z expect brands to create plant-based chocolate options.
A new take on a legacy product
As a heritage chocolate company, Lindt moving into the plant-based sector was seen as a sign that change is happening. However, the releases earlier this year were not its first foray into dairy-free bars.
In 2021, under the ‘HELLO’ banner, Lindt unveiled three vegan milk chocolate bars, available only in the U.K. and Germany. It showcased original and salted caramel, like the new U.S. releases, alongside a cookie variety.
Redefining the chocolate industry
As a sector, chocolate production is rife with human rights violations and labour concerns, including exploitation of child workers. As a result, Lindt is not alone in looking to take a different approach. The vegan chocolate sector alone is predicted to see a $1 billion valuation by 2027.
From introducing blockchain as a way to guarantee fair payments to farmers, to reverse engineering chocolate from unexpected ingredients, a lot is happening in the space. The latter is being explored by Voyage Foods, with cacao-free chocolate already at prototype stage and expected to launch in the middle of this year. The unethical production methodologies of chocolate made it a primary candidate for the startup, alongside similarly worrying coffee manufacturing practices.
In terms of unethical practices, household chocolate names are implicated. Nestlé, Hershey, Cadbury, and Ferrero have all been named in an attempt to force accountability. All have signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary initiative to eliminate child labour, but outside observers acknowledge that little progress has been made.
Making milk chocolate for vegans
Historically, chocolate brands have sought to cater to dairy-free eaters with dark varieties. Now, a trend for capturing the taste and creaminess of conventional milk chocolate is on the rise. Lindt is one of many companies seeking the magic combination of ingredients that give a silky mouthfeel, light flavour, and lingering sweet aftertaste.
Betterland Foods recently unveiled its first chocolate bar made using Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein. Designed to mimic Snickers but with fewer calories and sugar and twice the protein, Woo bars use Perfect day to create a comparable chocolate flavour.
Both Nestlé and Cargills appear to be looking to sunflowers as a provider of vegan chocolate superiority. The former used sunflower lecithin in its vegan KitKat recipe while the latter includes kernel powder to increase the creaminess of products. Alongside rice syrup, the sunflower powder is claimed to create a balance of creaminess and ‘snap’ that chocolate aficionados are looking for.
All photos by Lindt.