Craigavon firm launches an innovative range of chocolate coated products “without the moo”

The new Nutmilk range is vegan, gluten free, non-dairy and has 30% less sugar than traditional milk chocolate

Forest Feast, the Craigavon-based UK leader in original snacks, has launched an innovative range of chocolate coated products “without the moo” for the growing demand for plant-based foods.

The family-owned business, which exports snacks successfully to markets as diverse as Europe and China, has developed its Nutmilk range of vegan snacks using almond milk.

The move represents another important move by the Armagh snack pioneer towards plant based foods. The company currently exports to almost 40 international markets.

Forest Feast is the most important snacking brand developed by Kestrel Foods, a pioneering business owned by founder Michael Hall and his family. It also owns the popular Acti-Snack brand for those taking part in sports and other active pursuits.

The company, however, is best known for its Forest Feast portfolio of healthy dried fruits, nuts and chocolate coated nuts and fruits.

These are sold widely in the UK including by retail customers such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and the Co-Op as well as Holland and Barrett health stores and discounters such as SuperValu.

The new Nutmilk range is vegan, gluten free, non-dairy and has 30% less sugar than traditional milk chocolate.

Bronagh Clarke, Forest Feast’s marketing director, explains: “We wanted to create chocolate snacks for anyone cutting out or cutting back on dairy but found that a lot of the products in the market were closer to dark chocolate than the more mainstream milk offering.

“As one of the UK’s leading fruit and nut snacking brands, we are continually pushing the boundaries on staying relevant and driving new consumers to our brand and to the healthy snacks category.”

Forest Feast’s new product development team, Bronagh continues, couldn’t source a good enough vegan chocolate to use, so instead they set out to develop their own in-house using almond milk in place of dairy.

“With our decades of fruit, nut and snacking know-how we spent a lot of time perfecting the recipe to create a legendary tasting Nutmilk chocolate that is as good as the real thing, but better for you too.

“We have then drenched our deep roasted peanuts, juicy raisins, and crunchy corn with it for snacks that all chocolate lovers can enjoy. With 92% of consumers claiming they would buy again after trying, we are confident there is potential for the range to grow,” adds Bronagh.

The range, available in both share and handy impulse packs, has already rolled into Spar, Applegreen, Fine Food and Health Wholesalers, Amazon, with UK retailers coming on board in March.

The new range is also available in flavours: Chocolate Peanuts, Chocolate Raisins Chocolate Corn and Chocolate Mix It positions Forest Feast at the forefront of the developing global market for vegan snacks valued at around £35 billion in 2021 and is expected to register annual growth of almost 7% from 2022 to 2030.

The rising global demand for vegan products due to perceived health benefits coupled with increasing veganism is one of the major factors propelling the growth of the industry.

Bronagh Clarke, Forest Feast’s marketing director, sees immense potential in plant-based foods

Consumption of vegan foods help to improve gut health, support the immune systems and reduce inflammation. Due to these benefits, consumers are adopting vegan food in their snack routine and supporting the growth of the market.

Rapid growth in online sales of plant-based food products during the lockdown period also aided the industry’s growth. Moreover, the increasing vegan population across the globe contributes to the growth of the industry.

Founded in 1996 by Michael and his late wife Lorraine, Forest Feast is probably Northern Ireland’s best known and most successful healthy snacking brand. The business is recognised as a premium brand that’s focused on innovative, quality, wholesome and nutritious snacks.

What also helps the company stay ahead in intensely competitive global markets is the strength of its commitment to new product development and its speed of reaction to market trends and opportunities in the burgeoning healthy snacking category.

Dried tropical fruit, especially mango, in attractive and original packaging, has been at the heart of the business since its early days. It supports ethical trading and has a longstanding partnership with PREDA, a social development organisation, through which it helps mango growers in the Philippines to enjoy a better quality of life.

Growing global success has also been recognised in a string of major industry awards for this enterprising local business including being named as one of Ireland’s ‘Best Managed’ companies in the Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards Programme last year. It has also won a string of UK Great Taste Awards.

The Forest Feast innovative plant-based Nutmilk range
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The Forest Feast innovative plant-based Nutmilk range