US: Mars partners with Perfect Day on animal-free chocolate

Mars is collaborating with Perfect Day to make a milk chocolate bar featuring animal-free dairy proteins. The new bar, branded as CO2Coa, is available to order online.

This is the latest CPG product to launch using Perfect Day’s dairy proteins. They have also been used in ice cream, cream cheese, protein powder, baking mix and milk beverages.

CO2Coa is positioned as a more eco-friendly chocolate choice, in line with Mars’ larger goals to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The cocoa for the bar is Rainforest Alliance Certified and the wrapper is mostly paper.

Perfect Day’s dairy proteins are made through precision fermentation in a process that uses up to 99% less water and produces up to 97% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional dairy, according to the company’s life-cycle assessment. insights:

With this launch, one thing is crystal clear: CPG companies are finding animal-free dairy to be an acceptable substitute for ingredients that ordinarily come from cows.

It doesn’t get much bigger than one of the world’s largest confectioners using these proteins for its very first US chocolate brand using something other than traditional dairy.

Chris Rowe, global vice president of R&D at Mars Wrigley, said that this bar was developed in just under a year — lightning speed in the slower world of new product innovation and production at a big CPG company. Rowe said this shows the innovation and desire to push into new categories that is at Mars’ core.

And this bar, he said, is better than any chocolate on the market that uses an alternative to milk from cows.

“There are alternatives in the marketplace that are plant based, and what we’ve seen is by incorporating the Perfect Day material, it really mimics the smooth, silky texture that consumers look for,” Rowe said. “That’s a big differentiator because this has both the flavour and the texture of chocolate products.” 

Perfect Day co-founder and CEO Ryan Pandya said the reason why CO2Coa is so similar to traditional milk chocolate is because the actual components are mostly identical.

Perfect Day’s proteins are the same as those that come from cow milk. They perform the same when formulating products, especially since many of today’s milk chocolate bars are made using powdered dairy ingredients.

Pandya said the goal is for people to find the new bar “remarkably unremarkable” — enough like the chocolate they are used to in terms of taste and performance that it seems no different.

With a completely new brand and a relatively slow rollout, Mars is positioning the bar as something that is remarkable. For the time being, it’s only available through online orders. It’s more expensive than an average chocolate bar, costing $2.39 for a 1.09-ounce (30.9g) bar.

Rowe said that Mars is starting with an online-only release mostly to get consumer feedback about the taste, performance and positioning of the new brand. Depending on consumer reactions, Rowe said, the company may decide on a wider rollout of the bars at retail stores.

Even if the bar tastes like any other Mars milk chocolate, creating a new brand for the Perfect Day-powered chocolate also puts it on a pedestal. This new brand can be positioned to highlight the more sustainable chocolate — something Rowe said is a likely strategy. Its name also highlights the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of the bars, he said. 

Many of the companies using Perfect Day’s proteins are startups that are not yet well known or don’t have a large reach. This is the second Big Food product using Perfect Day’s proteins. General Mills uses the animal-free dairy in its Bold Cultr cream cheese.

Mars is in the very beginning stages of using Perfect Day’s dairy, but Rowe said the company is not ruling out putting it in some of its well-known chocolates down the road. Pandya said that’s a big reason Perfect Day is working with Mars on this launch.

“We probably wouldn’t be here if this was just a one-off thing, targeting a particular niche audience and it’s only going to be so big,” Pandya said. “We’re looking at this as the beginning of an opportunity to really do something much bigger.”