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Are Hotel Chocolat’s Better Way Bars Worth Buying?

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The recent sale of Hotel Chocolat to US confectionery giant Mars signals a potential shift in sourcing and pricing strategy in the medium to long term. Before the announcement, the British chocolate brand quietly launched a couple of luxury chocolate snack bars - the Better Way bars, perhaps paving the way for supermarket-ready confectionery?

A great deal of Hotel Chocolat's products are made using bulk cocoa from West Africa, and while these particular bars use praline made from Ghanaian cacao, they are enrobed in single-origin St Lucian chocolate.

The purpose of these bars, besides to satisfy a craving for something sweet, crunchy and chewy, is to make a material difference to the lives of cocoa farmers. Hotel Chocolat intends to do this by investing "100% of sales from the bar (excluding VAT)" to "fund nature-positive cacao farming," or "gentle farming initiatives" to put it another way. The brand seeks to invest in regenerative agriculture as a means to encourage biodiversity, with practices such as planting shade tree seedlings, pruning, and using organic fertiliser.

I reviewed Hotel Chocolat's St Lucian chocolate previously and loved its distinctive flavour, richness and mouth feel. I became curious as to how good this snack bar could be, so tracked it down to my local store. So, let's find out, is the Better Way Bar the right way to make a difference?


Packaging

The snack bars are presented in blue and yellow-orange themed wrappers. The artwork was created by Naja Simeon at the Rabot Estate in St Lucia, and depicts a cacao farmer harvesting the beans.

Hotel Chocolat Better Way Bars
Hotel Chocolat's Better Way Bars

The Hotel Chocolat logo is on the front, along with the Better Way Bar text, and a brief description underneath. Both bars share the same DNA in that they are praline based bars with crispy biscuit and tart dried cherry blended within, but one is draped in milk chocolate and the other is a darker affair.

The ingredients list is annoyingly printed on the side of the wrapper.

Hotel Chocolat Milk Chocolate & Praline Better Way Bar ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), nut paste (hazelnut paste (8%), cashew nut paste (7%) (cashew nuts, rapeseed oil), sweetened hazelnut paste (4%) (hazelnuts, sugar, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin)), sugar, dried cherries (12%) (cherries, sugar, sunflower oil), malt balls (6%) (wheat flour, sugar, wheat malt flour, wheat starch, barley malt extract, skimmed milk powder, salt), full cream milk powder,  whole milk powder, vegetable fats (coconut, shea, sunflower), butter oil, skimmed milk powder, emulsifiers (sunflower lecithin, soya lecithin), lactose, sea salt. Cocoa solids: 50% minimum; 20% milk solids minimum.

Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate & Praline Better Way Bar ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), nut paste (hazelnut paste (8%), cashew nut paste (7%) (cashew nuts, rapeseed oil), sweetened hazelnut paste (4%) (hazelnuts, sugar, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin)), sugar, dried cherries (12%) (cherries, sugar, sunflower oil), malt balls (6%) (wheat flour, sugar, wheat malt flour, wheat starch, barley malt extract, skimmed milk powder, salt), full cream milk powder,  vegetable fats (coconut, shea, sunflower), butter oil, skimmed milk powder, emulsifiers (sunflower lecithin, soya lecithin), lactose, sea salt. Cocoa solids: 70% minimum (dark chocolate); 50% minimum (milk chocolate). Milk solids: 20% minimum (milk chocolate).

The packaging warns that there may be traces of tree nuts, peanuts, egg, and sesame in these bars. There may also be fruit stone fragments too.

There's 246kcal in the milk bar, and 249kcal in the dark chocolate bar, so there's little between them. Sugar levels in both are around 33% too.

The shelf life of this bar isn't too great. I picked this up with just 3 months left on it. I'm not sure if this is standard but given this is a new range, I'd expect this is the norm.

The film wrappers can't be recycled at home, but can be recycled with bags at larger supermarkets.


Hotel Chocolat's Better Way Bar Review

I was eager to see whether Hotel Chocolat had nailed the luxury snack bar concept, and decided to start with the milk chocolate version.

The aroma on opening the wrapper is smokey, with a creamy undertone and hints of butter and tobacco. It's an unexpected fragrance from Hotel Chocolat, with the St Lucian cocoa dominating the aroma.

Inside the bar is a firm yet pliable praline, generously studded with chunks of crunchy biscuit (that behave more like crispies) and chewy cherries.

The praline is sweet but fairly bland. It's the vehicle for the other flavours, rather than a central flavour itself.

The cherries add a tartness, while both elements add contrasting textures. It's called the "Better Way Bar" but should probably be called the "Everything Bar", as it hits all my cravings - it's soft; chewy; crunchy; creamy; smokey; sweet; and tart. Above all, it feels rounded, with all aspects working in harmony.

The St Lucian cocoa dominates the flavour, elevating this from just another snack bar into something that feels quite indulgent. The Caribbean cocoa notes linger into the aftertaste, which is divine.

The dark chocolate bar shares an identical format to the milk chocolate bar, just with a darker, richer coating.

The smokey and tobacco qualities are more prominent, which makes this one feel a bit more grown-up and sophisticated.

The praline and inclusions are exactly the same, so the experience is largely similar, but the outer coating is darker and richer.

Which is Better?

Personally, I prefer the milk chocolate version.

Hotel Chocolat Better Way Bars in Milk & Dark Chocolate
Milk vs dark chocolate

The dark chocolate bar has a more pronounced flavour, is richer and works really well against the tart cherries. However, the additional boost of creaminess in the milk chocolate edition wins it for me.

Both bars are enjoyable, and it's a very close call, so it's definitely worth buying the pair to see which you prefer. But if you're only purchasing a single bar, go for the milk chocolate version.

Hotel Chocolat Better Way Bars Review

RRP: £2.95 | Hotel Chocolat | Shop now

An interesting concept that seems timely given Hotel Chocolat's acquisition by US confectionery giant Mars. These Better Way bars fuse the everyday chocolate flavour Hotel Chocolat is known for with the smokey elegance of single origin chocolate from Saint Lucia. Bundle in generous helpings of crunchy biscuit and chewy cherry and you've got yourself two fantastic snack bars.

Packaging
Appearance
Ingredients
Taste
Creativity
Score: 4.6

Where to Buy Online

The milk chocolate bar is available here (£2.95; 40g) and the dark chocolate bar is available here (also £2.95; also 40g).

The bars are also available in a four-bar set presented as a cotton wrapped gift set here (£14.95; 160g).

The bars are also available in Hotel Chocolat stores across the country, but appears to be in limited supply. My local branch had just half a carton of bars left by the till.

Would you choose the dark or milk version? Let me know in a comment below.

Disclosure: I purchased two Better Way bars from Hotel Chocolat for £5.90. I was not asked for a review. My opinions are my own.

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