ConfectioneryNews caught up with co-founder Matt Schnarr at the 2016 Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago to see what kind of growth the brand has seen.
“We’re nearly doubling every year,” Schnarr told ConfectioneryNews.
The brand, which was regional just two years ago, now has national distribution with major retailers including Walmart, 7/11, and Walgreens.
“Functional products have revolutionized many different product categories, and we looked at chocolate as something that never received any functional innovation in the mainstream section,” Schnarr said.
Schnarr, formerly part of PepsiCo Canada’s innovation team, along with two of his co-worker friends Dan Tzotzis and Adam Deremo, took their insights from the beverage market, particularly energy drinks, to create a caffeinated chocolate bar.
“We knew that taste and price were the two biggest pushbacks with consumers not having energy drinks,” Schnarr said. “So we tried to get something that would cost less and taste way better.”
A similar concept was tried in 2007 with the launch of the limited edition Snickers Charged, each bar containing 60mg of caffeine.
“Snickers tried this, but it didn’t taste very good. There was about 90 minutes of aftertaste,” Schnarr said.
The company says its proprietary recipe masks any of the bitter coffee taste at its source.
“We were the first ones able to do this so it didn’t disrupt the texture and it just tastes like what it should taste like,” Schnarr said.
Since ConfectioneryNews’ last interview with Schnarr, the company said it was focused on increasing distribution across college campuses.
Currently, Awake Chocolate products are in approximately 5,000 university bookstores across North America. Two of its chocolate bars are ranked by a major North American campus bookstore chain at No.1 and No. 3 for all confectionery products in its university stores.
“We’re definitely in more universities than we’re not,” Schnarr said.
The company now offers the same flavors of its caffeinated chocolate bars in individually-wrapped “Bites,” packaged in a zip-top pouch. Each bite size piece contains 50mg of caffeine, the equivalent of half a cup of coffee.
The company has branched out in other platforms like granola, and sells two new granola bar products with the equivalent of half a coffee cup of caffeine per serving.
Schnarr said he believed that the company would be developing other functional products in the future.