(Bloomberg) -- Nestle SA is adding its first vegan milk chocolate to its products as the world’s biggest food company expands beyond meat alternatives.
The Swiss food giant will start offering plant-based KitKat bars this year, called KitKat V, according to Alexander von Maillot, head of Nestle’s confectionery business. The product will be for sale online and at selected stores in a handful of markets including the U.K. as a test run before a possible wider rollout.
The bar, which uses a rice-based formula as a milk substitute, took about two years to develop. The main challenge in making alternatives to milk chocolate is ensuring it blends well with cocoa and sugar for a creamy texture. Other substitutes, such as soy or almond formulas, can create off-notes, von Maillot said.
While there are quite a few small labels that make vegan milk chocolate, most of the popular brands haven’t yet joined in on the trend. Lindt & Spruengli AG, better known for its Easter bunnies wrapped in golden foil, has started selling oat milk-based chocolate bars under its Hello label. Mars Inc. has introduced a vegan version of its Galaxy bars in the U.K. Mondelez International Inc.’s Cadbury has also announced plans to make plant-based milk chocolate.
“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.”
Confectionery is one of Nestle’s last categories to join the plant-based trend. Nestle Purina last year introduced a blended pet food line, adding insects and plant protein from fava beans and millet to the meat protein.
Nestle introduced sausage substitutes last year and also makes plant-based mince and non-dairy ice cream and coffee products.
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