(CNN) — Mars is set to launch a new line of vegan chocolate bars in the United Kingdom, becoming the first major confectionery company to offer a plant-based alternative to milk chocolate.
The US maker of M&M’s and Snickers candy bars confirmed Wednesday that it will offer a vegan range of its popular Galaxy bar.
The bars will come in three flavors — caramelized hazelnut, caramel and sea salt, and smooth orange. At £3 ($3.85) for a 100-gram bar, they cost three times more than regular Galaxy bars.
The products will go on sale next week in UK supermarkets including Tesco and grocery delivery service Ocado. They will also be sold on Amazon.
Kerry Cavanaugh, unit director of chocolate at Mars, told CNN Business that the UK vegan market is “impossible to miss” and “evolving so quickly.”
“Wherever you look you can’t avoid the vegan buzz in the UK — even though vegan treats are currently only worth £10 million in a £4 billion chocolate market,” he said in a statement.
In 2018, the UK overtook Germany to become the nation with the highest number of new vegan products, according to market intelligence agency Mintel.
Mintel said that as many as one in six food products launched last year in the UK had a vegan or no animal ingredients claim, doubling from 8% in 2015.
Consumers in developed markets around the world are becoming more interested in plant-based and vegan foods, upending huge swaths of the food industry.
Restaurant chains and supermarkets have been enthusiastically adding plant-based options to attract eaters who want to reduce their meat intake for health and environmental reasons.
The challenge for Mars
Cavanaugh told CNN Business that capturing the Galaxy bar’s creamy texture was the “biggest challenge” the company faced, and praised his team for developing the recipe within six months.
Milk chocolate is typically much harder to develop into vegan alternatives due to its high dairy content, which helps create its texture. Mars claims to be the first major producer of a vegan milk chocolate bar.
The new bars have been registered by the Vegan Society — an organization that trademarks new products, guaranteeing that they are free from animal ingredients and testing.
Dominika Piasecka, a spokeswoman for the organization, said that the announcement is a “significant move” as it is the first time a mainstream milk chocolate manufacturer has moved into the UK vegan market.
Piasecka also hopes that the new Galaxy bars will help show that “vegan food is just normal food” and that more people will be tempted to try it.
In contrast to milk chocolate, most dark chocolate is naturally vegan as it does not contain milk products, and regularly appears in supermarkets’ dairy-free aisles.
Many dark chocolates are nevertheless not marketed as vegan, due to the risk of cross-contamination when being made in the same factories as milk chocolate products, Piasecka said.