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Making the KitKat Vegan

kitkat vegan
KitKat, but make it vegan. That was the brief for Emma Josrolland and the team of chocolate specialists working at Nestlé’s research and development centre for confectionery in York, the home of KitKat. Emma explains how the dream became a reality in just 18 months (with a global pandemic thrown in).

We wanted to make sure that a vegan KitKat tasted similar to the classic KitKat that is known and loved around the world. It’s straightforward to make a dark chocolate vegan product, but we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to create a plant-based alternative that tasted as close to the standard milk version as possible. We knew it would be a challenge.

KitKat is our global number one brand and we wanted it to be an alternative for anyone following a vegan or flexitarian diet.

When we started the project, we began with a recipe exploration. This had to be our starting point and we worked on the chocolate first. Here we needed to look at what would be the dairy replacer. This involved exploring oats, nuts and rice and evaluating their different properties, advantages and disadvantages.

Nuts are challenging from an allergen and taste perspective, while oats have a distinct flavour profile, so we settled on rice as it gave the most neutral chocolate flavour.

The next challenge was the praline, which sits between the wafer layers, as it has to work with the layering of the product. Whereas we only had a couple of versions of the chocolate, we had four or five iterations of the praline. We had to get the right balance of sweetness and cocoa, as well as the viscosity of the praline.

Once we had the products in place, we had various rounds of internal tastings (it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!) and thorough analysis of the product. This looks at the compatibility of the fat in the milk alternative chocolate and the praline, and how likely the chocolate is to “bloom”. Blooming is when the fat rises to the surface and creates white marks on the chocolate.

We then had to analyse the behaviour of the chocolate, from the tempering to the cooling profile, and how this differs from the standard product. It was really important to get the balance right between flavour and consistency. It also needed to have that distinctive KitKat snap, and it does!

All this was critical, as we had to make sure we could upscale it, and that it worked for mass production, not just a one off we’d made in our development kitchen.

The finished product really does deliver on flavour and texture; I would say it’s just as delicious as a regular milk chocolate KitKat. In a blind test, I’m not sure you would know it’s vegan chocolate.

I love my job and to work on this product has been amazing. I’m proud to be a part of the team that has brought vegan KitKat to the market.