New York (CNN) Vegan Reese’s is happening.
Hershey, which makes Reese’s along with Hershey bars, Kisses and other chocolates and candies, on Tuesday announced two new dairy-free products: Reese’s plant-based peanut butter cups and a vegan chocolate Hershey bar with almonds and sea salt, each made with oats instead of dairy and designed to taste like milk chocolate. The new Reese’s variety will be available nationally this month, and the new Hershey bar will arrive in April.
The company is the latest to introduce a vegan chocolate in the hope that it will attract more customers. But Hershey is a little late to the game.
Nestle (NSRGY) introduced KitKat V, a vegan version of the chocolate bar, in 2021. Mondelez (MDLZ) bought Hu, a company that makes vegan chocolate, also that year. Hershey also began testing a version of its product in 2021.
In prepared remarks discussing the company’s fourth-quarter results, CEO Michele Buck said “better for you,” which includes plant-based items, presented an opportunity for the company and will “receive greater levels of support this year.”
“We are excited to introduce these delicious, plant-based options,” Teal Liu, brand manager for Better For You at Hershey (HSY)said in a statement announcing the launch Tuesday, adding that the new products offer more options for “chocolate lovers looking for plant-based alternatives.”
By focusing on vegan alternatives to milk chocolate, specifically, Hershey may have a better chance of differentiating its products from others on the market.
“As the vegan chocolate space becomes more crowded, claims beyond plant-based may be necessary,” Kelsey Olsen, food and beverage consumer insights analyst at market research firm MIntel, told CNN in an email. “While many plant-based products launched in the past have been dark chocolate, brands should explore the areas of plant-based milk chocolate and white chocolate.”
Touting oats as an ingredient could also help.
Confectioners “can take advantage of the unique properties of oat milk to appeal to a larger consumer base, whether it’s vegan or not,” Olsen said.
Chocolate as a category has been resilient in the past few years, with people seeking treats during the stress of the early pandemic and seeing it as a relatively affordable yield even as prices rise.
But it’s not clear that an oat-based chocolate will do the trick. “The majority of consumers are not focused on added (better-for-you) components to chocolate,” Olsen noted in a Mintel report last year.