March 07, 2023
If you have a sweet tooth, but do not eat dairy products, Hershey's has a new option for you.
The chocolatier will begin selling plant-based Reese's Peanut Butter Cup later this month. The chocolates, which are made with oats instead of milk, are part of the company's efforts to reach vegan consumers and people who are lactose intolerant.
Hershey's also will begin selling a plant-based Extra Creamy with Almonds and Sea Salt chocolate bar in April.
"Our purpose is to create more moments of goodness for consumers," said Teal Liu, a brand manager for Hershey's. "Those moments are now more accessible for chocolate lovers looking for plant-based alternatives."
Plant-based foods have become more popular in recent years, particularly among young adults. A 2021 survey conducted by Euromonitor found that 42% of global consumers restricted their intake of certain animal-based products, though most of them did not follow vegetarian or vegan diets. And 54% of Generation Z consumers restricted animal-based foods. By contrast, only 34% of baby boomers did so.
Eating a plant-based diet has proven health benefits, such as lowering body mass, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But though plant-based foods offer alternatives for people with diet restrictions, they're not necessarily healthier. Many plant-based meats, chocolates and snacks are packed with unhealthy additives.
Hershey's hasn't released all of the nutritional facts for the plant-based Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but a 1.4-ounce package has 210 calories – the same amount as the 1.5-ounce package of the traditional variety, the Associated Press reported.
"If you want a Reese's, just have a Reese's," Braeden Yacobucci, a nutritionist at OnPoint Nutrition, told PhillyVoice. "If you need to completely avoid dairy, then go with the plant-based Reese's, but they're both still going to contain added sugar and artificial ingredients. So just have everything in moderation."
Oat milk chocolate has a rich, creamy texture that resembles milk chocolate. It is made from oat milk, which is produced by blending oats and water. And though the cocoa flavanols in chocolate have health benefits, most chocolates contain high amounts of sugar.
"The chocolate itself can provide antioxidants that are great for decreasing inflammation throughout the body," Yacobucci said. "The problem with chocolate comes when we add a lot of additional ingredients to that chocolate to make it into milk chocolate or white chocolate."
Even plant-based milk is not necessarily healthier for consumers without dairy restrictions. Some oat and nut milks contain added sugar and synthetic ingredients.
"A lot of those products, especially the products that are trying to be like their whole food counterparts, they can contain a lot of potentially inflammatory oils," Yacobucci said. "And again, a lot of those synthetic ingredients can increase inflammation in the body and that just leads to a lot of negative effects down the line."
Hershey's tested an oat-made chocolate bar in several U.S. markets in 2021, but the plant-based Reese's Peanut Butter Cups will be its first plant-based chocolates sold nationwide.