Mars is to launch a vegan version of its best-selling Galaxy bar in the UK, the first move by a large mainstream confectionery brand to offer consumers a plant-based alternative to milk chocolate.

The new variant, certified by the Vegan Society, will be available in three flavours: smooth orange, caramel and sea salt and caramelised hazelnut. It will go on sale online and in store at Tesco, Ocado and Amazon from Monday, costing £3 for a 100g bar, double the price of the regular Galaxy.

While all dark chocolate is naturally or “accidentally” vegan if it has not had milk or cream added to it – and is prevalent in supermarkets’ dairy-free aisles – milk chocolate is more challenging to convert because of its dairy content.

Often chocolate products do not carry a vegan label because of the risk of cross-contamination when they have been made in factories where dairy and other products are used.

Mars, the UK’s second-largest confectionery brand, says it has taken more than six months to reformulate its best-selling chocolate bar, which has involved replacing dairy with hazelnut paste and rice syrup.

Guardian food writer Tamal Ray tried the new caramelised hazelnut and smooth orange bars. “I have no idea what sort of alchemical magic turns hazelnuts into cream but, whatever the process is, both bars of chocolate certainly look and feel the part: they’re smooth on the tongue and melt away to a pleasant creaminess,” he said.

“The caramelised hazelnut has crunchy little nuggets of caramelised sugar and hazelnut scattered through whilst the smooth orange has just enough citrus flavour to be pleasantly familiar without overpowering. Both are fair efforts that I doubt you would realise were vegan if you didn’t know already.”

He had one major criticism: “Neither tastes particularly chocolatey – the texture is there as are the additional flavours but the underlying taste is of some vaguely sweet thing rather than chocolate. I don’t think either of these would cure my occasional late night chocolate cravings. They are, however, about a million times better than Hershey’s.”

Linda Lopez, the head of the sensory team at Mars, said: “The taste of Galaxy has not changed in the nearly 60 years since it was launched. We wanted to retain the classic smooth and creamy taste and texture without any compromise.”

The new product scored highly in its blind taste tests, she said, with consumers rating rival products (largely dark chocolate) less well because of their bitterness and/or waxy aftertaste.

Source: The Guardian