At the start of the year, we reported on popular chocolate trends we expected to see becoming more prominent in 2022. A shift towards plant-based products, lower sugar snack offerings, and a focus on unique flavours were all predictions that have already started to unfold.
As is often the case, what is in trend can usually be determined by what the celebrities and ‘popular’ people are doing. A fitting example would be the recent launch of the new brand Feastables, co-founded by the YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson (aka “MrBeast”) and Jim Murray, who has over ten years of experience in the consumer goods industry. Donaldson’s channel is currently the 5th most subscribed to on YouTube. He has previously made headlines with his extravagant stunts, such as planting 20 million trees (with the help of the YouTube community) to celebrate reaching 20 million subscribers.
The celebrity’s new brand, Feastables, has just released its first product: MrBeast bars – a line of vegan chocolate bars. The new range of chocolates reflects much of what we expected to see becoming popular this year; they are plant-based, contain minimal ingredients, and come in unique flavours (such as their Quinoa Crunch).
“Feastables is focused on making high-quality, great-tasting products accessible to as many people as possible, including those with dietary restrictions”, claims Murray. This sentiment is reflected in the ingredients list of their new bars, which are made up of a base of only sugar cane, cocoa bean, cocoa butter, and sunflower lecithin. “By formulating our first bars without dairy, Feastables is encouraging everyone to participate in the fun and engaging brand”, explains Murray.
The brand has also made commitments to sustainable practice by working with Rainforest Alliance to aid in the ethical sourcing of their chocolate and with TerraCycle and EcoCart to improve their recyclability and ensure a carbon-neutral shopping process. It is clear that those behind this brand understand popular culture and what consumers value when making purchasing decisions. As more celebrities promote plant-based, ethical chocolate alternatives, they could open the door for many who had previously overlooked these options.
While this is an example of how modern chocolate brands are emerging to fill the gap in the market with organic, plant-based offerings and sustainability baked into their business practices – these ‘ethical’ brands are attempting to move the mainstream to accept higher prices.
The MrBeast bars sell for $2.89 per 60g bar – almost double the price of a regular 100g bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. However, at this price point, the brand could produce chocolate on a relatively large scale, perhaps with a higher ethical standard, and still pricing themselves below most speciality chocolate. Perhaps as more companies move into this space, the price people would be willing to bear for ethically produced chocolate will become more apparent as brands find that ‘sweet spot’.
We have seen pricing as a hurdle for many plant-based chocolate makers looking to introduce their ethical chocolate into a broader market. When ‘regular’ chocolate sells at half the price, convincing the average consumer to pay more for less (even if the quality is better) is no easy task. Even those with good intentions must first consider their own budget before thinking about how their snacks were made.
Considering that Feastables wants to encourage everyone to engage with their brand and products, they must ensure they have the price point right. The alternative will result in their bars being less inclusive than they hoped.
An example at the other end of the spectrum is musician Billie Eilish’s newly released vegan chocolate bar, which uses rice milk to replace dairy, and comes in at a steep $10 per 80g bar, using Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa and certified organic. Much emphasis is on sustainable materials, although the singer leaves out details on how much of the $10 goes to the farmer.
These emerging trends make it clear the direction chocolate companies should be heading in if they want to remain relevant to their customers. While chocolate has been enjoyed worldwide for many hundreds of years, consumer preferences are ever-changing. With the amount of competition emerging in the plant-based and ethical chocolate spaces, it is now more important than ever for big brands to reflect customers’ demands in their products.
One key aspect that big chocolate could have the leading edge on is pricing – as we have seen, ethical and plant-based chocolate does not come cheap. So if big brands can undercut smaller chocolatiers with their pricing in this market, we may see many newer startups struggling to compete, despite their good intentions.