Sugar Reduction or Nature's Sweetspot

Spotlight on Ross Chocolates, one of the first ‘sugar-free’ confectionery brands

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Spotlight on Ross Chocolates, one of the first ‘sugar-free’ confectionery brands

Related tags Sugar Sweeteners Health

‘There’s no way this is sugar-free! That’s what most people say the first time they try Ross Chocolates, says Philip Hemmings the company’s sales manager, when CN spoke to him from his office in Vancouver, Canada.

Ross chocolates not only appeals to Keto Diet followers and others wishing to eliminate sugar and carbs but also the better-for-you consumer looking for a healthier treat.

Ross uses Stevia and a touch of erythritol, both naturally occurring sweeteners, to create six innovative flavors of low carb, no sugar added chocolate including creamy milk, light & lively milk with lemon coconut, crunchy milk with quinoa, luscious plain dark, smooth yet nutty dark with hazelnut, and complex sweet & salty dark with sea salt.

The company started 25 years ago in Canada from a ‘ma & pa kitchen operation’ and has grown into a modern chocolate crafting facility in Vancouver shipping, chocolate across North America.

We talked to Hemmings to get the lowdown on the brand.

CN: How long have you been with the company?

PH: The company has been crafting premium no sugar added chocolates for over 20 years.  I was hired two years ago to oversee sales and initiate Ross Chocolate's launch into the US.

CN: What’s the story behind Ross Chocolates?

PH: The company started when chocolate lover and founder, Bob Ross, was diagnosed with diabetes. Frustrated over the prospect of not being able to enjoy chocolate, he developed a recipe that allowed him to continue to enjoy chocolate without having to worry about sugar spike ins his blood.

The ‘Sugar Free Chocolate’ sector is expected to grow significantly through 2023

CN: Sugar-free chocolate must have been quite revolutionary back then, has it been a hard sell?

PH: It actually took off rather well. Because Ross Chocolates didn't have the "chalky", and sometimes bitter taste, that most ‘no-sugar-added-chocolates’ at that time had, it was well received.  

CN: What’s the secret behind Ross chocolates?

PH: It's in the recipe. The rich chocolate flavors are complimented by the creaminess and texture of our small batch chocolates. Placement has also been important too. Up until now, Ross Chocolates has been positioned in the ‘diabetic section’ of pharmacies (near the diabetic supplies). Diabetics were our core consumer and we wanted to be easily found by them as well as avoid being lost in busy confectionery set with endless brands to compete against. Recently, we have undergone a rebranding and feel that our new look in conjunction with the consumers trend to find ‘better for you’ products, will allow us to be featured in more traditional confectionery sets. 

CN: Tell us more about the Keto Diet?

PH: Essentially, The Keto Diet is when we limit our intake of carbs and sugar to force our bodies to start burning fat for a fuel source instead of carbohydrates. Finding foods low in carbohydrates and sugars can be challenging in this era of processed foods. Our Stevia sweetened chocolates are low in carbs and has been very popular with people on the Keto Diet.

CN: Are Ross Chocolates only available in Canada and North America?

PH: Currently, we are only in North America, but just had a meeting last week to enter the European market by 2020.

CN: Ross Chocolate recently exhibited at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, how did that go?

PH: Ross Chocolates has undergone a significant re-branding since my arrival at the company and the Sweet & Snacks show was a great opportunity to introduce our new brand. Our packaging and look has moved into a more ‘premium’ and ‘Artisan’ feel. We have bold colors and creative graphics on our packaging that compels the consumer to stop and give these bars a second look. We saw that countless times at the Sweet & Snacks show where we are competing for consumer attention with thousands of other chocolate products.

CN: What’s the competition like? Is it hotting up as consumers demand more healthier snacks and treats?

PH: The sugar free space is heating up. We see the big companies like Hershey diverting more and more resources to this sector which is proof that consumers are looking for products with less sugar. The ‘Sugar Free Chocolate’ sector is expected to grow significantly through 2023 and Ross Chocolates expects to grow as well with new flavors and expansion into new markets.

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