Novelty Food treat both trendy & tasty
VGAN Chocolate nothing to sneeze at
The Norwegian American
When Novelty Food in Oslo was contemplating a second chocolate product to follow its Grieg Suites Chocolates (previewed in our Oct. 4 issue), it came down to two ideas. “When we started the project, we looked in two different directions—allergy and trend,” said Thomas Kraft, creative foodie behind the company. “We chose the trend side, and then we found VGAN as the perfect name.”
VGAN is a subjective name to hint at the vegan recipe. “The goal of the project was to create a brand and a product without compromise, and if we had chosen a name connected to allergy, it [would have had] a negative ring to it. The VGAN chocolate bars should not be eaten only because you cannot eat other chocolate, but because it is a great chocolate and you love it.”
“We make tailor-made products based in Norwegian culture and values,” said Kraft.
“VGAN Chocolates represents Norwegian values, with the purest ingredients, and they tastes fantastic. We started Novelty Food with the slogan, ‘Taste Matters.’ If we don’t think it tastes good, we don’t want to make it or sell it. Being vegan has medical, healthy benefits. We have to make sure it tastes great.”
The company produces five different kinds of chocolate bars. All five bars are all organic, Fair Trade, soy and gluten free, with no artificial sweeteners or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They are kosher, too.
“Those who choose to be vegan make their own conscious decision on ethical basis and tastes,” said Kraft. “This is a completely good product.”
Like with Grieg Suites, they sought help and ingredients from different countries. Bulgarian brothers Kassimir and Martin Benjamin had developed a vegan cacao mass and agreed to work with Novelty Food. For months, they’ve collaborated, working on developing the chocolate bars. The first samples were market tested in February at a trade fair. Then, in September, they launched small consumer tests in stores in Norway, with a soft launch in the United States in October. They scheduled a full launch in Sweden for November, and a chain-store launch in Ukraine for December. There is also a vegan fancy food show in San Francisco in January. Kraft said they are targeting Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and the like.
The brand name is now registered in the United States, and as with Grieg Suites, the American distributor is Rise Distribution in Des Plaines, Ill. They established their first distribution outside Illinois with Brooklyn Fare in New York, which has “fresh, delicious groceries and prepared foods” at its markets in Brooklyn, West Village, and midtown Manhattan.
“VGAN is more of a mass market item than Grieg Suites, but we need local production, or it won’t work,” said Kraft. “VGAN has a fairly short shelf life. They don’t contain preservatives. It’s a pure product, just the ingredients that enhance the taste.”
The biggest splash will be at the X Games in Norway in March, where VGAN Chocolates will be a partner.
“At that time, we hope to have enough distribution in the United States to make an impact,” said Kraft. “We aim to do more partnering. A lot of those athletes are vegetarian or vegan and have lifestyles that promote this. They love the product.”
Kraft and company are in discussions with third-party manufacturers in Illinois, hoping to make a line test prior to New Year’s and to launch in 2020.
The five bars are: Hazelnuts & Mulberry, Chocolate, Grapefruit & Chia, Almonds & Salty Caramel, and Dark Chocolate.
I love Hazelnut and Raspberry, so the Hazelnuts & Mulberry was the first bar I tried. It tasted very much like regular chocolate and the hazelnut and mulberry weren’t overpowering. The bar didn’t seem quite as rich as, say, Ghirardelli chocolate, though.
Although I like almonds and salty snacks, I must watch my sodium now, because of high blood pressure, so I regrettably had to pass on Almonds & Salty Caramel,. The Salty Caramel bar, however, is based on a 100% plant-based white chocolate, with 100% organic ingredients. Reports are: it was good.
For the non-dairy eater, the VGAN NoMilk Chocolate bar is the answer. The VGAN Chocolates website says, “If you love vegan milk chocolate but can’t eat dairy, have no worries, VGAN Chocolates is what you have been looking for. Our NoMilk Chocolate bar has a creamy taste that’s so good you won’t believe its dairy-free … The taste is heavenly!”
The VGAN Dark Chocolate is versatile: it can be used for baking and to enhance desserts. It is the only VGAN bar without sugar. Mine is just one opinion, but I found it tasted a little too bitter.
Perhaps the most interesting flavor VGAN offers is Grapefruit & Chia. Chia are small black seeds with many nutrients that help the brain and body. They are high in antioxidants, fiber, protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids, and they are low in calories.
“Everything’s better with chocolate,” says VGAN’s website. “Our Vegan Dark Chocolate bar with Grapefruit and Chia has a unique and enjoyable taste. The grapefruit provides a perfect balance of bittersweet flavors that will explode your taste buds!”
And as a bonus, all of the bars are high in potassium.
While it’s clear that Grieg Suites are best eaten listening to Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite Morning Mood,” I asked Kraft if he had any suggestions for music while eating VGAN bars.
“I guess the music for VGAN would be your favorite relaxation music—what you like to listen to while enjoying life,” said Kraft.
The U.S. website is www.vganchocolates.com. Check out the brand book at www.flipsnack.com/thinkgoodcheer/vgan-brand-book/full-view.html.
This article originally appeared in the November 29, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.