It comes after Mars this month launched whey protein-fortified variants of its Mars and Snickers bars in the UK.
Mars has told ConfectioneryNews its new protein bars are currently only available online from Amazon.co.uk.
But the multinational is aiming to expand listings with UK sports nutrition distributor Tropicana Wholesale, which exhibited the bars at UK health & fitness trade fair Body Power Expo this weekend.
A mainstream product?
Mars said in a release earlier this month that protein consumption had become “mainstream”.
We asked protein suppliers at global nutraceutical trade fair Vitafoods in Geneva last week if chocolate was the best carrier for protein.
Emma Cattell, R&D nutritionist at nutritional ingredient supplier Cambridge Commodities said: ”Chocolate is associated with being unhealthy so any ways that it can be made healthier are obviously great if it also tastes the same as regular chocolate, which could be difficult.”
Marcelino Múgica, sales and commercial assistant for Althae & SAI Nutrtion, said his company was already receiving many orders for its protein milk chocolate balls. “I do think it’s already mainstream – I completely agree with Mars,” he said.
Innova Market Insights analyst Juliette Kuiken said protein had been a huge trend in dairy cereals and snacks. “It would be a new category [in chocolate] and therefore provides a lot of opportunity,” she said.
The analyst added that protein chocolate was still niche, but had mainstream potential as an indulgent and accessible source of protein.
Is £2.19 too much?
Snickers Protein bar, with 18 g of protein, and Mars Protein bar with 19 g of protein, come with a recommended retail price of £2.19 ($3.16) per bar. Could the price be off-putting for consumers?
“I think £2 per bar is expensive in terms of a regular chocolate that you would get for a third of that price” said Cambridge Commodities’ Cattell. “It does indicate it would apply more to a niche consumer,” she added.
Anlayst Juliette Kuiken agreed it was a “big step up” from an original Mars or Snickers bar, but said consumers looking for protein products understand a good source of protein costs more.
Lindsey Ormond, business development manager at Arla Foods Ingredients added: “As the appreciation of protein is becoming bigger and bigger then consumers are willing to pay the extra for it.”
Best protein sources for chocolate
Mars protein bars are fortified with whey protein. Do our experts think this is a wise choice for chocolate?
Arla’s business development manager Ormond said milk proteins had “come out on top” for health benefits and taste. “Confectionery products already have milk in there, so it’s a very natural next step to use the dairy proteins,” she said.
Analyst Kuiken said that while athletes were seeking good sources of protein such as concentrates or isolates consumer interest was growing for plant-based proteins derived from sources such as nuts and pulses.
Cacao, almond and cranberry proteins
Cambridge Commodities recently launched vegan protein range Pro Earth, which includes protein ingredients from almonds, buckwheat, cranberries and quinoa.
“They would work particularly well with chocolate,” said Cattell. “Especially almond protein and cranberry protein because these are ingredients in their whole form that are used in chocolate anyway.”
She added that protein chocolate products should be clean label. “If the protein is added and the chocolate product is still made from unhealthy ingredients, this contradicts the whole point of the new product.”
Althae & SAI Nutrtion uses milk protein and cacao protein for its chocolate products. Múgica said cacao was already a natural component of chocolate and claimed cocoa proteins do not significantly change the flavor.