The quinoa and amaranth additions are vegan-certified and have a recommended retail price almost double that of Ritter’s regular squares.
They are the company’s first vegan products.
"Vegan is growing in Germany,” Thomas Seeger, press contact at Ritter, told ConfectioneryNews at the recent ISM trade fair in Cologne. “We have more than 1m users of vegan.”
Germany has almost eight million vegetarians (around 10% of the population) and around 900,000 vegans, according to the Institute for Demoskopy Allensbach (IfD).
Ritter Sport will target mainstream supermarkets with its two 100 g vegan tablets.
Seeger said specialist organic/bio stores have lost market share to chains such as Edeka, Lidl, Kaufland and Audi, which now stock vegan products.
"The 'normal' supermarket chains now also have organic and vegan products and not just in a corner. Today, the organic [and vegan] products stand side-by-side with the normal ones,” he said.
Nicaraguan cocoa and hazelnut cream
Ritter begun selling its vegan range solely in Germany a few months ago and showcased the products for the first time at ISM.
Seeger said Ritter would first grow the vegan range to three or four products before exploring other markets.
The quinoa and amaranth variants both use cocoa solely from Nicaragua and contain hazelnut cream instead of milk powder.
They carry the European Vegetarian Union’s ‘V-label’ front-of-pack.
Both products have a suggested retail price of €2 ($2.13), which is almost double the price of Ritter’s regular 100 g tablet range (€1.09/$1.16).
Select price increases last year
Ritter Sport has harmonized the suggested retail price across its 100 g tablet range decades, currently €1.09 ($1.16).
However, the company broke its pricing structure last year by upping the price of its macadamia variety to €1.29 ($1.39) as prices for the premium nut increased.
"Today we are lucky that the retailers said, 'OK we trust you' and the consumers did also,” said Seeger.
“That was a big step for us that helped us in a precious situation. The raw materials, cocoa and nuts are still increasing,” he continued.
Five large retailers in Germany account for 85% of Ritter’s sales in the market, which contributes to a “permanently stressed situation," the press officer added.
Ritter has no plans for additional price increases, but the company now has the price increase option if input costs rise for certain varieties and can add premium-priced products to the range, said Seeger.
Competition for vegan products
The Ritter press officer said there were only a few other large chocolate companies producing vegan chocolate for the German market – mainly due to the cost of segregated production lines.
"Vegan is still a difficult market," he said. "It's the same with organic - we're still the main big player that offers an organic assortment.
"I don't think tomorrow there will be a lot of competitors offering vegan chocolate. Maybe they will have a look at us and if it's increasing, maybe they will come to in two to three years,” he said.
The company expects many non-vegan consumers will buy the two new varieties, as Ritter does not produce non-vegan quinoa and amaranth versions.
A few of Ritter Sport's existing range - such as its marzipan SKU - have a vegan recipe, but have never been labelled as such because they are made on the same lines as milk varieties.
Extended spring range
The company has also extended its spring range to combat seasonal sales troughs. It has added pink grapefruit, white yogurt and redcurrant 100 g squares to the spring range, which was launched in the Nineties.
Ritter has also developed a choco-cube containing messages such as ‘thank you’ in different languages (except in French because Storck owns the 'merci' trademark for chocolate).
Sweet & Salty combo
Ritter also debuted its Honey Salt Almond square at ISM to capitalize on the taste trend for sweet and salty combinations. The product is already on the German market and will now expand across Europe.
The company has stopped producing its tortilla crisp square in favor of a chocolate tablet containing ground brownie pieces and chocolate chips, which launched last month.