It’s official- Hershey’s has been working on their “Better For You” segment to create more health-conscious candy bars, and this includes plant-based options. Hershey’s has even stated that the plant-based line is found to be their fastest-growing Better For You (BFY) segment. They’ve released TWO variations of the Oat Made Plant-Based bar; Extra Creamy Almond & Sea Salt, and Classic Dark. Unfortunately for us, this is a limited run for in-person market testing. This means that the bars are only available at certain stores, in certain areas, and even that inventory is limited. The in-market testing is being used to determine how well these bars sell, and “how well our plant-based offerings reach new consumers and create new occasions to enjoy our brands“. The bars do not appear to be showing up locally anytime soon, but the in-market testing for Hershey’s plant-based bars will run through the summer of 2022. The name may change depending on how well-received “oat made” is over simply “plant-based”, but I personally have no doubt these bars will fly off the shelves and pop up at every holiday and celebratory event once they reach consumers. Have no fear vegan chocolate should be here to stay, the future is vegan after all!
Plant-based goodness. Delicious HERSHEY’S taste. For over 125 years Hershey’s has been the go-to brand of chocolate bars for customers across the globe. Now vegans and dairy-free consumers can enjoy delicious moments with the inclusion of Hershey’s Oat Made Plant-Based Bars. I ordered a handful of bars in both varieties from Target, but had to have them shipped. I was surprised to find that even after days in transit in the hot summer weather, they still arrived intact! Each bar is clearly labeled vegan, Rainforest Alliance certified, and non-GMO verified. The taste of the Extra Creamy Almond & Sea Salt and the Classic Dark, vary greatly. The Almond & Sea Salt bar is as creamy as promised, mimicking a traditional milk chocolate Hershey’s bar. I love the crunch from the almonds, and the slight sting of sea salt mixed with sweet chocolate. This may be my favorite of the two, solely because I like my chocolate to have chunks! The Classic Dark bar is still creamy and smooth but is less sweet, and has the bitter dark chocolate bite dark chocolate lovers crave. This is the creamiest dark chocolate I have consumed, thanks to Hershey’s Oat Made formula. I am a fan of both bars, and can’t wait to see the rest of the plant-based line-up that is soon to come.
I am stoked about the inclusion of plant-based offerings within Hershey’s line of confections. Bigger brands going vegan really shows the wave of change we make as consumers. Hershey’s is monitoring their in-person testing closely to determine when and where to officially launch, and most excitingly- when do they include Oat Made Reeses into the mix! That’s right, Vegan Reeses are noted to be next once the Oat Made Hershey’s Bars officially launch. What a time to be vegan!
With vegan candy on the rise, I am ready to celebrate, how about you? I will be including a couple bars in my giveaway prize once we hit 6K on Instagram, so if you’re not following me yet, now’s the time!
Expanding out Better-For-You Offerings through Real-Time Market Testing
Hershey’s expansion into the better-for-you (BFY) segment — which is one of the key priorities of our Strategic Growth Platforms team- is backed by proprietary research.
A third group of BFY consumers (comprising as many as 40 million U.S. adults) is much more health conscious than the average consumer — and even more health conscious than other consumers in the two aforementioned groups. These consumers, according to our research, tend to purchase from a lot of smaller niche brands within the chocolate space that carry organic, plant-based, and fair trade products.
Now, we’re testing a move into the plant-based segment — which we find to be one of the fastest-growing BFY segments.
In my role as Team Lead of Strategic Growth Platforms (SGP) at Hershey Company, I’ve been helping spearhead a cross-functional initiative to test an exciting innovation for our future: Hershey’s Oat Made Chocolate bars, in extra creamy almond and sea salt as well as classic dark chocolate.
Plant-based product development & in-market testing
We started our work on the Hershey’s Oat Made products by evaluating the current plant-based offerings on the candy market. After finding that the ingredient formulas of existing products could be improved upon, our masterful R&D team at Hershey developed formulas using oats that we believe deliver better on consumers’ expectations than what is in the marketplace today. (Oat was a preferred substitute among all the other plant-based substitutes that we considered.)
To validate our concepts with the Hershey’s Oat Made products, we’re currently doing real-time, in-market testing, which helps us manage uncertainty and measure the additional benefit to both the category and to the Hershey portfolio. A key signal for us will be to evaluate how well our plant-based offerings reach new consumers and create new occasions to enjoy our brands. We’re working with partners to keep a limited number of stores supplied with a limited quantity of inventory, enabling us to have Hershey’s Oat Made products out on the shelf and analyze how they perform in the real world.
We chose locations based on a “shopper fit” to reach a segment interested in plant-based offerings. Working with our retailer partners we are able to cordon off a group of stores to carry the products while having a like group of stores be our control set that does not carry the products. (In some circumstances, the cordoning-off occurs geographically by customer. In other circumstances, it’s more of a selection of a range of stores across the country.)
We’ll use the results of our in-market testing to determine whether we take the products to a national launch in the future. We’ll be analyzing the sales velocity of the product and working to understand as much as we can about the shopper who purchases it — helping us find out whether we are getting into new households and new occasions.
Building on our BFY success
It’s so important for us to test for reality, that we’re intentionally planning a marginal level of advertising delivered to certain geographic areas for the Hershey’s Oat Made products. In fact, should they make it to market, it may be under a different moniker (as we’re still testing out whether to use the current “Oat Made” name or simply call them “plant-based”). Once naming and branding for the products are defined, we’ll tackle the even-bigger questions: How do we scale up the product? When do we launch, and who are the key retailers for this product? How soon do we complement the launch of our Oat Made chocolate with a plant-based Reese’s?
Time and consumer insights will help us determine the answers, just as they’ve helped inform our entire BFY strategy. Already, we’ve gotten strong customer feedback that our Oat Made products taste great.
I purchased my bars online for shipping from: Target.com