Nick’s gets into sweets with new keto-friendly bars


Dive Brief:

  • Nick’s, the Swedish brand known in the U.S. for its better-for-you ice cream, is launching into a new sector with its line of Swedish-Style Keto Snack Bars, which are now for sale on the company’s U.S. website. 
  • The snack bars, which have 180 calories, no added sugar, 3 grams of net carbs and 15 grams of protein, are first available in Choklad Peanot flavor. The company will release two other flavors of the bars — Karamell Choklad and Krispi Nougat — this summer.
  • Nick’s first appeared in the United States in 2019 and has spent the last year on the ramp to rapid expansion. At the close of 2020, Nick’s Ice Cream was available in nearly 4,000 stores in the U.S., as well as direct-to-consumer on its website. Its Swedish parent company, LUB Foods, closed a $30 million funding round in January. Company leaders said Nick’s had about $10 million in sales in 2020 and hopes to triple or quadruple sales this year. 

Dive Insight:

In Europe, Nick’s is a multifaceted better-for-you brand with offerings ranging from ice cream to candy bars to sweeteners. With this launch, it’s moving toward that place in the United States, too.

In an interview earlier this year, Nick’s U.S. CEO Carlos Altschul wouldn’t directly say whether the company was going to launch different product lines here, but said that new products would be able to stand out in categories, even ones that are crowded.

This bar, which seems similar to a candy bar, brings a new sort of product to an indulgent category. According to projections by the National Confectioners Association and Euromonitor, chocolate sales totaled $21.9 billion last year. But, according to IRI data cited by Hershey, only 6% of confection sales come from products that could be defined as better-for-you.

There is plenty of room in the candy category for new entrants and innovation — especially because many consumers are looking for overall healthier products. As consumers stayed close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, one in three said they ate healthier, according to a study from the International Food Information Council. But in the same study, a quarter of consumers said they ate more comfort foods. With the positioning of this bar, it seems it could meet both of these needs.

While confectioners have been working for years to shrink portion sizes, deploy more careful labeling and reduce sugar to decrease their products’ negative health impacts, few have created sweets in the better-for-you space. Hershey recently announced it and sweetener company ASR Group were co-leading an equity investment in Bonumose, a startup working on plant-based ingredient innovations, including rare and natural sugars. The investment is intended to help Hershey improve the taste and texture of zero- and reduced-sugar chocolates.

Nick’s bar is sweetened with several naturally occurring sweeteners, including erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol and stevia. This particular variety of bar does not appear to be sold in other countries, but similar bars have been popular. Company founder Niclas Luthman said in an interview in Germany with meal kit company HelloFresh that the chocolate bars are the company’s most popular products. According to a release from Nick’s, in a double-blind taste test, the Choklad Peanot bars beat conventional candy bars, snack bars and nutrition bars.

While Nick’s Ice Cream quickly became popular in the United States, it will be interesting to see what happens with the bars. Although the global keto market was worth an estimated $10.1 billion last year, according to Grand View Research, that’s less than half of chocolate sales in the United States. If the bars are targeted at consumers in general, the sales may be greater. But it will be difficult to get consumers in general to notice a new brand in a segment it had not previously been in online, while keto consumers may pay closer attention to new options.