There's definitely a huge growing demand for 'free-from' products at the minute; from gluten free to dairy free, there's always some alternative product gracing the supermarket shelves and it is a market that is growing at a phenomenal rate. In terms of chocolate there's a few own brand dairy-free chocolates floating around but quite often these still use milk in some form, whether this be rice milk/soya milk etc.
Hotel Chocolat are one of the first non-alternative specific chocolate companies that I've seen branch out into this sector of things and a lot of their Easter NPD this year seems to be focused not around new formats of regular products as such, looking through their site I noticed a lot of the regular Easter Eggs are exactly the same as last year, but instead the NPD seems to have been focused around creating a milk free recipe and using that in some Easter products. Instead of any alternative milk, they've used almond powder, so unfortunately isn't suitable for nut allergy sufferers - in fact the ingredients list is very simplistic - 'Cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), sugar, almond powder, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin).'. I do think it would have been even better however if they'd managed to create a nut-free and milk free chocolate as essentially they've just replaced one allergen with another, but hey ho, it'll please a lot of milk avoiders.
I was curious as to whether the addition of the almond powder would cause it to have a nutty flavour and whether it would be more like a praline blend chocolate or whether it would taste like their normal milk chocolate. The cocoa percentage is higher than that of their classic milk chocolate blend, 56% as opposed to 40%, so sitting in between that and of their Supermilk at 65%, having not tried that I can only judge it against whether or not I would be able to tell that this supposed 'milk' chocolate actually has no milk in it!
Biting into the ears and letting a small piece melt in my mouth there definitely is no nutty flavour, you certainly cannot tell that this has no milk in it - albeit with the higher cocoa percentage it certainly is a less 'milky/creamy' milk chocolate than what many may be used to. The melt of it isn't as smooth as their normal milk chocolate, it does have a slightly more gritty feel to it in the mouth; however this isn't massively detrimental to the eat.
Would I personally buy it? No, probably not, due to not having a milk allergy I would just pick up a normal milk chocolate lolly - however if you're trying to avoid dairy/milk and don't mind a bit of a deeper milk chocolate eat then this a perfect substitute.
Taste - 7.4/10 - You definitely can't tell that there is no milk in it; however it is a bit of a deeper milk chocolate than what I would ideally look for. I'd be interested to see if Hotel Chocolat produce a lower cocoa percentage, say 40% like their standard milk chocolate, dairy free chocolate.
Texture - 6.9/10 - Not as smooth as their regular milk chocolate, slightly gritty.
Appearance - 8.1/10 - Really cute, a chocolate bunny peeping out of a cocoa pod.
Price - 8.2/10 - £1.95 for 35g, I was pleased to see that it was priced the same as their standard Milk Smiley Lick, I don't think it's justifiable when companies up the price for an alternative, allergy sufferers shouldn't have to pay more.
Overall - 7.7/10 - A good alternative for those looking to avoid dairy.
____________________________________________________________________________________WHO WHO FOR?
The obvious market is those looking to avoid milk and looking for a dairy free chocolate alternative.
WHERE TO BUY?
In Hotel Chocolat stores or online here.