The Hershey’s Company has reinvented its iconic milk chocolate bars, debuting its first vegan chocolate bars that use an oat milk base to achieve richness without dairy. The new Hershey’s Oat Made bars will feature two flavors including Extra Creamy Almond & Sea Salt and Classic Dark. The new oat milk-based chocolate bars will be the chocolate giant’s first plant-based offering. The vegan food truck Soul Miner’s Garden, located in Charlotte, North Carolina, became the first place to offer the new chocolate bars due to a distribution error.

“We actually unexpectedly stumbled across these on the shelf at a big-box store here in Charlotte,” Soul Miner’s Garden Owner Sasha Quinn told VegNews. “They had no tag on the shelf but rang up normally at the register so we bought them.”

The Oat Made chocolate range will be available at select retailers across the United States including Targets. The limited release is a real-time marketing test that the Hershey’s Company is conducting to review consumer response to the new plant-based product. The products will roll out nationwide this month until June 2022. The Oat Made line is the result of months of research and development inspired by the sharp rise in plant-based interest worldwide.

“We started our work on the Hershey’s Oat Made products by evaluating the current plant-based offerings on the candy market,” Team Lead of Strategic Growth Platforms at Hershey’s Dan Mohnshine told Totally Vegan Buzz. “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.”

Hershey’s Oat Made selections come from the company’s overarching commitment to expand its healthier and more sustainable options. The company launched its “better for you” campaign in February, aiming to develop products with higher nutritional values, more organic ingredients, and more environmentally conscious production methods.

The company is using Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa, attempting to maximize its environmentally sustainable practices. The international company recognized the plant-based market trends spreading across the global market, noting that it would be essential to adapt to the market as the leading confectionary brand.

“We are the leader in US confection, and our consumers rely on us to understand their needs for everyday moments, seasons, and special occasions, offering high-quality and great tasting candy that’s accessible for everyone,” Chief Growth Officer at Hershey Kristen Riggs said. “Expanding our expertise, building new capabilities, and delivering more choices in better-for-you confection is the next big category opportunity for us to lead.”

Hershey’s is entering the plant-based marketplace among other chocolate providers that have experimented with vegan options. Earlier this year, Nestle revealed the vegan version of its signature Kit Kat bar. The Kit Kat V initially rolled out in the United Kingdom before debuting in other countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Brazil, Poland, and other regions. The distribution of the vegan Kit Kat has yet to make it to the United States.

Where the Kit Kat brand is licensed to Nestle in Europe and South America, it is licensed and manufactured by the Hershey’s Company within the US. With the recently released Oat Made bars, consumers can anticipate more vegan alternatives to classic chocolate and candy bars from the company. Both Nestle and Hershey’s have been rapidly increasing their development and production of plant-based alternatives, giving consumers the first vegan options for classic confection.

It has been a challenge for vegans to find a suitable alternative to make dairy or caramel-based sweet treats or desserts, without having to compromise on taste, texture, or appearance,” Nestlé's marketing lead for Dairy Brands UK Vittoria Simms said in February.

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