Good, cheap vegan chocolate: Bite Society launches first products into APAC
Bite Society’s first two products are a crispy rice chocolate ball and a crispy rice chocolate bar, marketed under their own brand, both of which carry ‘vegan’, ‘no palm oil’ and ‘no malt’ claims.
These are now available in various independent specialty retail outlets such as Whole Foods as well as some other selected stores in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, and the firm’s Founder Simon Newstead has his eye on more Asian locations.
“We’re going into China very soon as well, and are also actively looking at other countries in the region, including Singapore,” Newstead told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“If our discussions go well, I would say that it should be another couple of months and we should be able to get it in the next manufacturing run and start selling there, but it definitely depends on things like whether we can find the right partner and so on.
“The goal is to take our current products and build up on these, because we actually have the manufacturing capability to scale this up.”
He added that the overall process of product selection and planning had taken the firm around six months in total, and the firm settled on chocolates as their first focus as ‘there are not that many good creamy options for these available’, especially in the vegan space.
“There are some good ones available, but these are very expensive, definitely nowhere near the ‘big chocolates’ price tag,” he said.
“When we started this project, we were not just looking for what tastes amazing, but also what can taste amazing but also be done at a cost-effective scale so that it can be more accessible [to the masses].”
Although the firm has not set a fixed recommended retail price for the chocolates, Newstead said that most retailers that Bite Society worked with had set pricing at around the A$2.00 (US$1.35) range.
“This price is really competitive with dairy supermarket chocolate pricing in Australia and Hong Kong and that has been my goal from the start: Whatever big dairy’s chocolate bar pricing is per 100g, we want to be there and able to match that price,” he said.
A major ambition for the firm is to launch into at least one large supermarket chain and scale up within the next 12 months.
One of the major challenges Bite Society faced along the way was in dealing with cold-chain logistics,
“When it comes to things like storage and transportation for chocolates, it doesn’t fit into the general three temperature ranges of ambient, chilled and frozen – it’s in its own kind of range between 15°C and 20°C, where it will melt in ambient but chilled and frozen is too cold for it,” said Newstead.
“We had to go and learn about things like all the different types of insulated materials, using gel packs to keep things cold, as well as working with refrigerated courier companies, particularly during summer months when it’s hot. During cooler times, ambient courier becomes a more viable option.
“For international shipments, big shipments would be okay as we could get a dedicated refrigerated container, but for smaller shipments this would not be possible, and is something we are still working through.”
The firm also hit several roadblocks in searching for a co-packer that could handle the requirements for a vegan product, but overcame these by presenting numbers showing the growth of veganism and potential demand for vegan products.
“Research has shown that over 10% of the population is now vegan or vegetarian in Australia, and the growth rate has been huge – it took some convincing but [numbers like these] helped with that,” he said.
New products in the pipeline
Apart from expanding its chocolate range, Bite Society is also looking at other products and areas to innovate in, such as flavours and packaging.
“We’re prototyping a chocolate wafer product and other chocolate confectionary items as I feel there’s a lot of potential in this, but also thinking about possible ambient products so that we won’t need to worry so much about cold-chain,” said Newstead.
“New flavours are also an area of research – a salted caramel flavour is on the way for the choc balls, which will hopefully be launched at the end of November in time for holiday season.
“We’re also launching 1kg and 2kg bulk packaging which a lot of bulk and zero waste food stores as well as foodservice chains have requested for, as opposed to the current 40g/100g retail packs. There will also be a switch over to fully recyclable packaging for retail packs.”
Bite Society operates as a mission-driven, zero-profit, open vegan project, and aims to act as a guide for vegan start-ups worldwide to launch their own products such that vegan product prices can eventually be lowered. In line with this, Newstead posts all product plans, numbers, works in progress, and so on on the firm’s website.