- Nestlé discontinued its Milkybar Wowsomes lower-sugar chocolate bar that launched in the U.K. and Ireland in March 2018. According to just-food, the CPG giant didn't give a reason for discontinuing the brand, but the chocolate bar reportedly saw disappointing sales and struggled to sustain distribution.
- The bar contained Nestlé's sugar-reduction technology, which reduces sugar by 30%. The patented discovery results in a hollow sugar that is more porous and dissolves faster in the mouth, allowing shoppers to taste the same level of sweetness but consume less of it.
- In a statement to just-food, Nestlé said while it was no longer making Milkybar Wowsomes, it was working on other new products. The company introduced a chocolate lineup last summer in the U.K. and Ireland called More featuring a Raspberry and Hazelnut Kit Kat Chunky and an Oats, Apple and Cinnamon Yorkie with 30% less sugar.
After taking more than a year to adapt the sugar-reduction technology breakthrough its researchers first developed in 2016, the Milkybar Wowsomes product was a big launch for the company. Nestlé announced the Milkybar Wowsomes brand as a "world first" with a publicity blitz in 2018. Just two years ago, the company said the new product was "meeting the growing demand of parents for better treats" because it contained natural ingredients, crispy oat cereal, fiber and milk as the main ingredients instead of sugar.
After Nestlé discontinued making the product late last year, it's likely consumers didn't respond positively following the initial debut and stores might not have given it shelf space as a result. However, customer reviews from July 2018 by the Tesco supermarket chain were almost unanimously positive, giving Milkybar Wowsomes an average 4.4 stars out of 5. Tesco noted those reviews were collected as part of a promotion, so they may not have been representative of overall consumer responses.
This episode exemplifies a dilemma for manufacturers. People say they want less sugar in their foods and beverages, but they don't always go for the lower-sugar alternatives. Many manufacturers have introduced new versions of indulgence products made with less sugar or sweetened with alternative ingredients, but this can result in a changed mouthfeel, flavor and sweetness profile that can turn off consumers.
Not all CPG firms have had the same experience as Nestlé with the new, lower-sugar confectionery products they have launched in the U.K. Mars Wrigley introduced higher-protein versions of its Mars and Snickers bars a year ago, offering 40% and 30% less sugar content, respectively. And Mondelez debuted its Cadbury Dairy Milk 30% Less Sugar product in the U.K. last summer featuring soluble corn fiber as a sweetener.
According to The Grocer, Mondelez has received an "overwhelmingly positive" response from shoppers to the product and had a mass-media campaign going to enhance sales. But a nutritional policy professor told the magazine large candy companies are afraid that any new no- or low-sugar products could impact their established brands, so they don't support the healthier varieties with the necessary marketing budgets.
Another factor affecting U.K. product reformulations is that the government, citing rising obesity levels, set a voluntary target in 2016 to limit sugar in certain children's foods by 20% by 2020. But in May 2018, manufacturers and retailers had not managed a 5% reduction during the first year. In the U.S., where such a policy stance has long been advocated, it's likely CPG firms will continue appealing to consumers by reducing sugar where they can by substituting more natural sweeteners.
In Nestlé's case, it can probably find other applications within its voluminous brand portfolio where its hollow sugar technology can be used even if it didn't succeed in the Milkybar Wowsomes. It's already using cacao fruit pulp in a chocolate KitKat product released in Japan, so it's a good bet the company's sugar-reduction plans won't be derailed — especially as consumers publicly claim to demand more low-sugar foods.