Hershey’s Plant-Based Chocolate Plan Is Driven By Demand

Hershey's Plant-Based Chocolate Plan Is Driven By Demand

Hershey plant-based candies are finally on the horizon!

The brand announced Wednesday that it plans to add Hershey vegan and Hershey dairy-free candies to its range as part of larger, consumer-driven “Better-for-You” initiative. This also includes zero-sugar treats and portion-controlled chocolate.

This marks the first time Hershey has committed to launching any vegan or dairy-free chocolates.

Some of the company’s most well-known products that will be impacted include Hershey Kisses, York Peppermint Patties, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and KitKat bars, which Hershey is licensed to produce in the U.S. Jolly Ranchers, Hershey’s Miniatures, and Hershey chocolate bars are also part of this new effort. Currently, all of these products (except for Jolly Ranchers) are made with dairy.

While Hershey didn’t mention specifically which of its candies will soon have a plant-based alternative, the brand did state via a press release: “Hershey will expand its future portfolio to deliver more reduced sugar, organic and plant-based alternatives while also continuing to build its classic array of beloved products.” 

Hershey also noted that many of its “existing products” will soon have “Better-for-You” alternatives, likely including plant-based versions.

We are the leader in U.S. confection, and our consumers rely on us to understand their needs for everyday moments, seasons and special occasions, offering high-quality and great tasting candy that’s accessible for everyone,” explained Kristen Riggs, Hershey’s Chief Growth Officer.

Hershey’s has said that many of its existing products will soon have “Better-For-You” versions. | Hershey Co.

When Is Hershey Launching Vegan Chocolate?

Hershey didn’t provide a timeline for exactly when its vegan treats will be available to fans of plant-based chocolate. But, the brand has already started rolling out some products as part of its “Better-for-You” range. This indicates that consumers likely won’t have to wait too long for some vegan goodies.

On Thursday, Hershey announced the debut of Organic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in both dark and milk chocolate varieties. It strongly hinted that a plant-based version of the popular candy likely isn’t far off. 

We’re continuing to expand our product line so there is a Reese’s Cup for nearly everyone,” said Eric Newton, brand manager of Reese’s Organic, in a press release. “When consumers go down the candy aisle or shop online, we want everyone to have an option to choose from, and we aren’t settling until everyone can enjoy a Reese’s product.

Hershey Invests in Plant-Based Ingredients

As part of this new confection strategy, Hershey has partnered with ASR Group—one of the world’s leading sweetener companies.

The companies will co-lead an equity investment in Bonumose, Inc. The start-up creates breakthrough innovations in plant-based food ingredients, including rare and natural sugars. 

This investment enables a research and development partnership to advance the tastes of zero- and reduced-sugar chocolate. It is also aligned with Hershey’s broader “Better-for-You” snack offerings going forward, including vegan candies.

We are setting the foundation for long-term sustainable growth in the better-for-you category at Hershey,” U.S. Hershey President Chuck Raup explained. “Everything we do is led by our consumers and our commitment to deliver only the most delicious snacks.  We are driven to provide more choices to ensure they enjoy our brands and products in ways that are right for them.”

Hershey’s announcement follows Nestlé’s vegan KitKat reveal. | LIVEKINDLY

The Vegan Chocolate Boom

Hershey’s plant-based announcement comes on the heels of Nestlé confirming that vegan KitKats will be available in the UK later this year. The Swiss brand produces KitKats abroad, while Hershey sells them in the U.S. as part of a longstanding licensing agreement.

Hershey and Nestlé are the latest (and largest) brands to join the vegan chocolate boom. Other companies, such as Divine, Chocolove, and Endangered Species Chocolate, have been producing sustainable plant-based chocolate for years.

Vegan chocolate is better for the environment thanks to the exclusion of cow’s milk. But, there’s also evidence to suggest that vegan chocolate is healthier than its dairy-based counterparts.

Vegan dark chocolate, for example, is high in iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. It also has antioxidants, which help to neutralize free radicals in the body, lowering your risk of developing a chronic disease.