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Startup watch: Ruben’s Chocolate

Buffalo milk chocolate targets supermarket listings in Austria and Italy

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By Oliver Nieburg+

23-Feb-2017
Last updated on 23-Feb-2017 at 12:40 GMT2017-02-23T12:40:56Z

Premium chocolate brand Augusto contains buffalo milk from Italy. Photo: Ruben's
Premium chocolate brand Augusto contains buffalo milk from Italy. Photo: Ruben's

Austrian startup Ruben’s Chocolate is eyeing supermarkets in its home market and Italy for its buffalo milk chocolate brand Augusto.

The startup has also launched a lactose-free chocolate range, which it claims is among the first premium products for the sub-segment.

Developing buffalo milk chocolate

The company founders spent five years developing buffalo milk chocolate Augusto and collaborated with Al Nassma the creators of camel milk chocolate.

"We feel that the chocolate market is completely saturated and if you're a new company like Ruben’s you have to come up with something really new,” Miriam Zangerl, assistant to Ruben’s Chocolate CEO, told ConfectioneryNews at the ISM trade fair in Cologne.

Ruben's Chocolate background

Ruben’s Chocolate was established towards the end of 2016. It is a sister company of a well-known Austrian fresh foods company, but operates as a separate entity. Its sister firm has around 60 employees, while the Rubens chocolate segment is a team of six. 

Augusto comes in 80 g bars in two flavors - wholemilk and almonds & bergamot – for a suggested retail price of €2.99 ($3.14).

Italian ingredients and branding

The buffalo milk is procured from Southern Italy and dried into milk powder in Austria. A contract manufacturer in Switzerland produces the finished chocolate.

"It's very creamy,” said Zangerl. “Buffalo milk has around 8-10% of milk fat and therefore we do not need additional fat.

“Most chocolate producers add palm oil or cheap fats to make the chocolate more creamy, but in our case we don’t need to do that,” she said.

The product contains cocoa butter, but the milk has enough fat to obtain the desired viscosity, she said.

Augusto uses buffalo milk procured from Southern Italy. Photo: Ruben's.

Zangerl said the calories were largely in line with the industry standard at 579 calories per 100 g.

"It's probably a bit above, but it's a good fat, it's not a cheap fat,” she said.

US and UK expansion prospects

Augusto is not lactose-free, but is suitable for those with a cow's milk allergy, continued Zangerl.

"We have a listing in Italy. We're really focusing on Italy and Austria at the moment…We will focus on supermarkets at the beginning, but we might look into speciality stores,” she said.

Ruben’s may also look to expand Augusto distribution to the US or UK where Italian-branded products have a favorable image.

Lactose-free range

The company has also entered the market with three premium lactose-free chocolate tablets under its namesake brand, which have a suggested retail price of €2.99-€3.49 ($3.14-$3.67)

"Lactose-free chocolate is becoming more popular. All the big supermarket chains have their own lactose-free product lines, so we realized there is a need,” said Zangerl.

"There's lactose-free chocolate on the market, but there's no premium lactose-free chocolate," she said.

Ruben’s lactose-free tablets come in three flavors – wholemilk, lime & hazelnut and almond croquant.

Swiss-branded lactose-free chocolate fills untapped premium segment, says Ruben's. Photo: Ruben's

Asia presents a big opportunity for the range due to high prevalence of lactose intolerance, said Zangerl.

Between 90-100% of the East Asian population and 80% of Central Asians are lactose intolerant, according to a 2001 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Ruben’s developed its own technology in collaboration with a Swiss milk powder producer to cut out lactose in the chocolate.

"Normally, you have 0.1%, but we have developed this technology so we can reduce it even further,” said Zangerl.

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