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Cocoa+ sees gap for protein in UK luxury chocolate market

By Douglas Yu contact

- Last updated on GMT

The majority of Cocoa+ revenues comes from e-commerce.  Pic: Cocoa+
The majority of Cocoa+ revenues comes from e-commerce. Pic: Cocoa+
Functional chocolate startup Cocoa+ is eyeing the UK’s luxury market with a protein-enriched milk chocolate.

The UK startup has launched a new milk chocolate protein bar with 42% cocoa and 27% protein.

“What we’ve noticed this year is there is a massive demand for our slabs, which is why we take a direction to the luxury market,”​ co-founder James Bhasme said.

He pointed out the rise of dark chocolate is not rooted in its bitter taste, but the fact that it has less sugar and perceived healthy nutritional profile.

“Our milk chocolate actually has lower sugar than your average 70% dark and it has four times as much protein – so we created a milk chocolate healthier than the average dark chocolate basically,”​ Bhasme said.

Bhasme launched Cocoa+ with his business partner Samuel Victor in late 2015 out of their passions for fitness, lifestyle and food. “A lot of food companies compromised on taste to develop the high nutritional profile. We are both ‘chocoholics,’ and wanted to develop something that combined both,”​ he said.

“The release of our initial products were seasonal. We launched protein-added Easter eggs, and we have previously retained customers through other products such as luxury 70 g slabs which retail for £2.99 ($4.03) in various flavors,”​ he said. 

Protein-enriched chocolate

The idea of adding protein to chocolate was very new when the company started, and now it is still rare for companies to do “protein chocolate on the luxury scale like Cocoa+,"​ Bhasme said.

“We spent months to formulate the products with two local chocolatiers. We grew rapidly with e-commerce being our main revenue source – it is our own website, and we’ve built a huge database of customers from social media using influence marketing,”​ he said.

Last year, e-commerce accounted for around 80% of Cocoa+’s overall sales, while B2B made up 10%, and export another 10%. In 2017, e-commerce contributed 60% of total sales with increased export and B2B sales.

Earlier this month, Cocoa+ also created a high protein chocolate advent calendar for the holiday season, and secured a nationwide listing at Holland & Barrett.

“We don’t want to divert from the traditional Christmas item, advent calendar, but we put a fitness and healthiness spin on it,”​ Bhasme said. “Each 5 g chocolate piece contains 2.5 g of protein… We also teamed up with a few athletes on social media, hoping to push the workout elements.”

‘Healthier than the average dark chocolate’

Even though Cocoa+ predominantly competes in the functional category, Bhasme said many of his customers are also into Lindt chocolate and Green & Black’s via social media. “We’re essentially luxury chocolate because we don’t use vegetable fat, palm oil, artificial ingredients or sweeteners,”​ he added.

“Our goal is to expand the milk chocolate range and repackage our slabs into a more luxury packaging, in the hope that we can dominate the luxury space next year.”

Cocoa+ is also looking to source plant-based protein to capitalize on the vegan trend in the future, Bhasme added.

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