The iconic KitKat chocolate bar will no doubt be drawing the attention of new consumer segments following the limited-release introduction of a new variant made without refined sugar.

Nestlé developed an innovative technique to extract the natural sweetness of leftover cocoa plants in order to sweeten the 70% dark chocolate bars. Extracting sweetness from a part of the cacao fruit that would otherwise be discarded, affords the product an important sustainability angle as well.

What makes the launch even more unique however is how it is being positioned. Rather than framing the new bar as a “better-for-you” version of the original that allows health-conscious consumers to indulge without the guilt, the product is actually positioned as a premium variant.

Alexander von Maillot, head of Nestle’s confectionery business, noted that “sugar is a cheap ingredient,” making this sweetening technique exceptional and in many respects more valuable in comparison to traditional methods.

Furthermore natural credentials can themselves impart premium connotations; according to GlobalData’s 2018 Q3 global consumer survey, 41% equate “high quality” food and drinks with those that are natural or chemical-free.

While the positive health implications of this new sweetening technique are evident, Nestlé recognizes that nutritional considerations are secondary in a category such as chocolate which is driven by the desire for superior flavor, pleasure and excitement.

Making health credentials the most prominent feature in a chocolate product risks undermining the primary benefits sought by chocolate consumers. Rather Nestlé leveraged the new recipe to underscore the indulgence associated with chocolate consumption, with the health benefits an added bonus.

This new sweetening technique holds strong potential not just in chocolate but a range of other categories. And as long as this approach does not compromise taste, texture or quality, it will make the appealing but elusive notion of the “healthy indulgence” a little more attainable.

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