From alt-choc to beads, spreads and vitamin-infused concoctions, Jane Wolfe unwraps the chocolate sector 

The UK chocolate market was estimated to be £5.6 billion in 2021, up 11.7% from 2016, according to Mintel. Its 2021 sector analysis found that COVID boosted overall retail volume sales as more people indulged in at-home, especially ‘emotion-led’, snacking. 

The research firm highlights that around 35% of chocolate eaters are concerned with the health issues around chocolate – good news for the natural sector, especially when coupled with the fact that 60% are interested in trying chocolate with added vitamins and minerals.

“While reformulations in chocolate and confectionery can run the risk of alienating consumers, positive nutritional benefits can appeal even for indulgent products,” writes senior research analyst Alice Baker. “This appears underexplored given the consumer interest, with vitamin and mineral fortified claims featuring on less than 1% of chocolate launches in 2020.”

Added extras
In addition to the innate nutritional value of dark chocolate – antioxidants, flavonoids, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese – innovations in the functional chocolate sector are popping up more and more. This year saw start-up Sheer Element launch what it says is the first daily supplement chocolate bar, with 22 vitamins, 72 minerals, prebiotics, antioxidants and medicinal mushrooms, including reishi, turkey tail and chaga.

With a ‘zesty citrus taste profile’, the raw chocolate – made from ethically sourced organic cacao beans from Peruvian small-scale farmers – was formulated to provide a tasty alternative to pills or capsules and features high levels of vitamins C, D, A, K2, magnesium, selenium and zinc, vitamins B6, B12 and B9, Ayurvedic herbal extracts, ionic minerals and ancient soil-based prebiotics.

“Sheer Element is very much inspired by the ritual food state delivery of therapeutic botanicals and mushrooms I experienced in South America and in Southeast Asia,” says co-founder Matthew Newsome. “We are turning what I saw as mindless consumption of pills and capsules into a ritual moment you can actually mindfully enjoy, taking time to connect to wellness and savour the powerful ingredients, all with your eyes closed. It’s also the combination of two of my favourite daily wellness routines, supplementing myself with nature’s pharmacopeia and indulging in delicious artisanal chocolate.”

Available in single 50g bars and week or month Journey Boxes, Sheer Immune is refined sugar-free, vegan-friendly and contains around 280 calories per bar. 

I came up with the idea of using chocolate as a carrier to deliver high quality clinically-backed ingredients

A more recent entrant to this arena is Dome Vitamins which launched in October with three supplements in the form of ‘domes’ made using Fairtrade chocolate: Pregnancy and Prenatal; Iron Assist; and Period Care. Founder Tanya Shukla comments: “During my pregnancy, I struggled with low iron levels, constant morning sickness and fatigue. The supplements available made me pill averse, worsened by sickness on top of making my indigestion worse. The gummies with iron tasted like blood … I was determined to find a better, scientifically-based solution to this. Therefore I came up with the idea of using chocolate as a carrier to deliver high quality clinically-backed ingredients. Chocolate itself is rich in polyphenols, it is a natural prebiotic and does a fantastic job in masking the inherent metallic taste of iron.

“Functional chocolates seem to be the way forward in delivering nutrition. As a pharmacist I can say that it would improve compliance to therapy of many active ingredients which otherwise seem challenging for consumers to take. It is a food product after all and in moderation has a vast number of health benefits which makes it a very promising carrier to deliver nutrients … in future.”

New creations
Another brand infusing further benefits into chocolate is Eat It Like, a UK company started by three sisters with the ambition of translating cultural stories into taste via the vehicle of ethically traded, sustainably sourced chocolate. Among its collection is the Eat It Like Healers bar – 70% dark chocolate featuring cordyceps, reishi and chaga medicinal mushrooms (5%) and the Eat It Like Gladiators, a 60% dark-milk chocolate bar featuring the popped superfood barley. 

Designed specifically for evening time, Unwind is a new Irish-made collection of hand-baked chocolate-topped bars in Roasted Nut and Chocolate, Malted Milk & Chocolate and Dark Chocolate & Orange. Contain natural, relaxation-promoting ingredients like Montmorency cherry, l-theanine and Chamomile, they are produced with a mix of grains and seeds, topped with Belgian chocolate, and include no artificial sweeteners.

Keto options include Funky Fat Foods’ line of low-carb, organic, sugar-free chocolates infused with MCT, including Dark Chocolate +MCT and Coffee, Dark Chocolate +MCT and Coconuts, Dark Chocolate +MCT and Hazelnuts, White Chocolate +MCT and Bourbon Vanilla.

And for even more chocolatey innovations, Love Corn is offering a Chocolate Crunchy Corn Gift Jar (salted corn kernels covered in milk chocolate); Karu’s Cacao Cashews are hand roasted nuts coated with cacao and salted caramel; drinking chocolate brand Cocoa Canopy’s Real Hot Chocolate comes in the form of versatile chocolate beads in Rich Dark, Smooth Milk, Salted Darn and single origin 70% Ecuador Dark; and HAPPi’s festive 80g Honeycomb Ginger oat milk chocolate bar offers a warming, wintery combo that has all the spice and sweetness for a real taste of Christmas.  

Spreading the love
Spreads are another tasty way to enjoy a hit of chocolate, and with fairly-traded and low-sugar options continuing to pile high, they can also be a guilt-free treat. 

Health store shelf regular Biona’s collection includes Chocolate & Coconut Cocobella Spread, Cocoa Hazelnut Peanut Butter, Duo Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and Dark Cocoa Spread, which can be enjoyed knowing that responsible sourcing is a priority. “The cocoa used in Biona’s chocolate spreads is ethically sourced from several organic cocoa farmers, where partnerships are in place to ensure a higher price is paid for their beans,” explains Elisa Berger-McDonald, Biona purchasing manager. “Our cocoa comes from a range of countries including the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru and Madagascar – all of which have been fair trade-certified for years.  

Our supplier upholds some of the highest cocoa standards in the industry

“Our supplier upholds some of the highest cocoa standards in the industry, with their certifications including Rainforest Alliance, Organic certification and Regenerative Agri Forestry. What’s more, their organic cocoa has a lower environmental impact than non-organic production, helping to sequester more carbon and in turn boost soil health, fostering biodiversity.

“Our responsibilities as a company aren’t an afterthought. From bean to jar, nothing but love and care goes into our products. We look out for all the people involved in bringing our products to the consumer, as well as the soil and wildlife. By supporting small hold farmers, we ensure they are provided with benefits that help their communities, such as farmer training courses and regenerative forestry schemes.

“So, it’s crucial that our cocoa comes from a trustworthy source and is purchased in a way that ensures the safe and fair treatment of all those involved in our production line, right from the beginning.” 

One way of avoiding the social and environmental issues surrounding cacao production is simply to replace it as an ingredient, which is what UK start-up WNWN Food Labs has done with the launch of its cacao-free alt-chocolate. 

Created by an in-house chocolatier applying traditional fermentation techniques to plant-based ingredients the brand transforms sustainable ingredients including British barley and organic carob into a product that ‘tastes, melts, snaps and bakes’ like regular chocolate and ‘mirrors’ its complexity and make-up. After launching with chocolate thins, in September WNWN released its second limited edition – its version of a Daim bar: the Waim!

Chocolate has a truly dark side with more than a million child laborers estimated to work in Ivory Coast and Ghana

WNWN’s primary aim was to create an alt-chocolate produced ‘without the child labour, slave labour, deforestation and outsized carbon footprint of conventional cacao’. “Chocolate has a truly dark side with more than a million child laborers estimated to work in Ivory Coast and Ghana, where three-quarters of the world’s cacao is grown, and more CO2 emissions pound for pound than cheese, lamb or chicken,” says WNWN co-founder Dr Johnny Drain. “Using fermentation, we’re able to create a suite of the same flavour compounds found in cacao. We can dial up certain aromas and even adjust the acidity to bring out notes found in premium single-origin chocolates.”

A ceremonial cacao
Chris Hill is the co-founder of Nourish & Glow, whose flagship product is Raw Shaved Ceremonial Cacao, organically grown in Peru. “We supply our cacao to the health and nutrition market – it is recommended by nutritionists to their clients for things like sleeplessness and caffeine replacement – and to the mindfulness sector where it is becoming an integral part of sound baths, gong ceremonies, Reiki healing and personal cacao ceremonies based around the ancient cacao grown mostly in Latin America,” he says. “Aztecs and Mayans have used cacao in ceremonies for centuries. Cacao is seen by many as a sacred thing – it’s not called ‘the food of the gods’ for nothing – that must be prepared with reverence and respect. The chopping, making, and blessing of the cacao are all part of the meditative process that produces a drink with transformative powers.”

 Hill says there are no particular set of rules surrounding cacao ceremonies although most are based around the setting of intentions, anything from ‘I am content, thankful, happy with my life’ to ‘I am asking Mama Cacao for guidance’ – ‘the possibilities are endless’.

“There are those who love to take part in group ceremonies where the space is cleared or smudged with sage or palo santo, the intentions are set, the cacao consumed, and then through sound – perhaps a gong bath – meditation, rhythmic breathing or dance, the participants are taken through a process where the cacao helps to bring about the intentions set and where there can even be a shift in consciousness with the cacao enabling a very high level of visualization.

“For an ever increasing number of people, the ability to relax, meditate, and focus using cacao as the tool to reach a state of fulfilment and contentment are becoming an essential part of their daily lives.”



Tel: 01508 558888
E-mail:  [email protected]

Booja-Booja, the multi award-winning chocolate truffle maker, has launched two stunning new gift boxes, just in time for Christmas. Each box contains 16 delicious chocolate truffles of a single flavour and echoes the design and format of the company’s hugely successful selections, The Signature Collection and The Award-Winning Selection. Now available in large 16-truffle gift boxes are multi award-winning, sumptuously smooth Fine de Champagne and popular, chewy gooey, Great Taste Award Winning Chocolate Salted Caramel. Sleek, stylish and with an RRP of just £11.99 these sensational boxes are perfect for festive sharing and gifting. 


Organic 21 Superfoods Cocoa Blend

Detocx Superfoods
Tel: 01923 663862 / 07984 336450 / 07957 113983
E-mail: [email protected]

Detocx Superfoods has created a bespoke blend with nutritionists to support Inflammation, Skin & collagen, Immunity, sleep, digestion, bones, metabolism, energy, oxidative stress. Blend is high in fibre, Vitamin C, Protein. The family brand is founded by husband/wife team Jiten and Nira who were inspired through life experiences to create the 21 superfoods blend. Main ingredients: Cacao, Turmeric, Spirulina, Chaga Mushroom, Chlorella, Acai berry, Goji berry, Maca root, Barley grass, Ginger, Camu Camu, Acerola, Blue Weber Agave. Product is free from Soy, Dairy, GMO, Artificial sweeteners, Additives, Fillers, Preservatives, Gluten. 100% Vegan, Natural, Organic, Plant based and uses recyclable packaging.


So free Oatm!lk Chocolate Bars

Tel: 01303 850588
E-mail:  [email protected]

Plamil So free Oatm!lk Chocolate Bars
Change the World with every bite – chocolate for positive change in the World.
Crops not cows – we are advocates for crops for food and not cows.
Childhood not slavery – we purchase certified cocoa so children have a childhood and are not forced to work on cocoa farms.
Plastic free packaging. Wrapped in paper.
Made using UK grown gluten free Oats.
Vegan means dairy free – no need for any may contain dairy alibi labelling.
Made in a nut free factory. Made using renewable energy.
Made by the UK’s original vegan company. Palm oil free. Kosher. 


Funky Fat Choc

Funky Fat Foods
Tel: 00 31 64 8945740
E-mail: [email protected]

Organic vegan sugar-free Chocs + MCTs for long-lasting energy without the sugar spikes. Don’t restrict, just simply replace. The functional chocolates are a perfect snack during office hours, as a workout snack, traveling snack or just during Netflix & Chill moments.