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Cast your mind back to 2022 and you might remember I reviewed WNWN's prototype cocoa-free chocolate. While innovative, it failed to fool me into believing it was chocolate. It tasted heavily of carob, and ultimately this was what let it down.
Well, the team has been busy engineering and reformulating, and perhaps researching how Tony's Chocolonely made headlines by creating lookalike bars to highlight the inequalities in the supply chains of their competitors in the process.
And so, in November 2023, WNWN launched a limited edition run of its latest iteration of cocoa-free chocolate, playing Tony's Chocolonely at its own game. WNWN hopes to highlight that big chocolate firms use cocoa sourced from broken, unequal and unfair supply chains while it offers a chocolate alternative that has a fraction of the impact on the planet.
Despite pledges, sustainable claims, and technological advances, in 2023, we're still not yet in a place where global cocoa supply is 100% traceable, and therefore guaranteed 100% sustainable, 100% free from slavery and exploitation, and 100% fair for the farmers. Even Tony's Chocolonely, a brand that vocally trumpets "exploitation-free chocolate" and perhaps the gold standard for transparent reporting amongst the bigger players, identified and remedied 653 cases of child labour in its own supply chain in 2021/2022.
Factor in the farmers choosing to switch to more lucrative crops (who'd blame them?) and add in the ever-present climate change issues and the cocoa supply market is on the verge of a significant problem. WNWN hopes to be at the forefront of a revolution, creating a product that smells, looks, feels and tastes like chocolate that doesn't contain a single gram of cocoa.
So, what difference does a year make? Let's find out.
It's clear to see WNWN has sought to prod at the likes of Cadbury, Tony's Chocolonely and Terry's in its packaging. And while it's a nifty PR trick, it brings a certain level of expectation. From the outset, I'm hoping to find a product that at least embodies some (if not all) of the qualities of Cadbury Dairy Milk Whole Nut°, Tony's Chocolonely 32% Milk Chocolate, and Terry's Chocolate Orange°.
The 48g bars come in identical sized recyclable cardboard boxes. The products inside are plant-based (so are theoretically vegan, although WNWN warn there may traces of nuts and dairy in these products) and are sealed inside compostable wrappers.
WNWN Limited Edition Cocoa-Free Chocolate Bar ingredients:
Choc Nut (Vegetable fat, carob, oat mylk, barley, sugar, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin, salt), hazelnut paste); M•lk Choc (Vegetable fats, sugar, carob, oat mylk, barley, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin, salt), sea salt); Choc Orange (Vegetable fats, sugar, carob, oat mylk, barley, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin, salt), orange oil, grapefruit oil).
As you can see, the base product contains vegetable fats (no palm oil in this recipe), carob, oat milk, barley and sugar, together with an emulsifier to bind everything together.
The Cadbury clone benefits from a helping of hazelnut paste, the Terry's clone contains orange and grapefruit oils, while the Tony's clone is largely the base product, with a light touch of sea salt.
Nutritionally, it's a mixed bag. These bars sit at around 590kcal per 100g and fat represent around 41% (approximately 21% saturated fat), which is all greater than your average bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk. Carbs are around 54%, sugars come in at around 34% (noticeably lower than Dairy Milk) and protein comes in at around 3%. It's worth noting that as this product is cocoa-free, it's free from caffeine.
On the rear of the boxes, WNWN highlights that the chocolate industry is "plagued by sustainability and ethical issues, such as child labour, deforestation and high CO2 emissions." It claims its product "snaps, tastes and melts just like regular chocolate," just without the inclusion of cocoa.
WNWN Limited Edition Cocoa-Free Chocolate Bars Review
I was genuinely excited to see what the team had created, but after my previous experience, I had reservations. Could this new iteration really taste all that different to the last one? There was only one way to find out.
Win-Win Vegan M*lk Choc
Arguably the biggest test for this product is presenting it unadulterated and unflavoured. The raw cocoa-free choc. WNWN chose to brand this bar to play Tony's Chocolonely at their own PR game, and so have set a subconscious link between this product and Tony's 32% milk chocolate, packaged in a red wrapper.
My expectations are a sweet, creamy, classic chocolate aroma with a hint of caramel notes. Nothing nuanced, but something that is at least comforting. I'd hit my Tony bar when I wanted a cheeky pick-me-up, and so that's what I feel WNWN is telling me with this bar.
First off, WNWN deserve praise for the fact that this looks and behaves like chocolate. It looks like dark chocolate, it has a chocolaty snap, it has a chocolatey sheen, and it even feels like chocolate. It also melts like chocolate in the mouth, too.
But step a little closer and you'll smell and taste that it's not a chocolate killer - not yet, at least. In terms of aroma, there's notes of sticky toffee pudding that quickly made way for the unmistakable aroma of carob. And once you pick up that scent, it's hard to see beyond it.
In terms of flavour, carob sits front and centre. Compare this to any traditional chocolate bar and the difference is clear. That said, the flavour isn't especially objectionable and there are subtle toffee notes in there, along with just a hint of cardboard.
As you might suspect, the aftertaste revolves around carob but thankfully, this doesn't stick around for too long.
The cocoa-free product behaves like a chocolate bar in terms of melt duration and mouth feel. It feels like chocolate even if the flavour isn't quite there yet.
Which would I prefer - WNWN's bar or Tony's? Tony's, hands down. While WNWN's bar looks and feels like chocolate, it misses the mark on taste. I'm not sure how you can get a carob product to taste like chocolate, but to be quite honest, if it was easy, a multinational company would have cornered that market by now.
I'm not sure how much work needs to be done to fool me into believing this is a bar of chocolate. I think WNWN is probably 80% of the way there. It looks good, it feels good and is behaves in a similar way to chocolate. The aroma and taste are key, and both are not quite there yet. Closer than ever, but not yet at that sweet spot.
Win-Win Cocoa-Free ChocNut Vegan M*lk Choc with Hazelnut
Like with the bar above, the fact that WNWN has mimicked the packaging of Cadbury's Wholenut bar sets a certain level of expectation. The bar also shares a near identical recipe to the bar above, except for the addition of hazelnut paste. While I'm expecting a flavour close to Cadbury's bar, I think anything similar to this or Ferrero's Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread would be a win for Win-Win.
The aroma is is a blend of carob and toasted hazelnut. It's not overly sweet, and reminds me more of a hazelnut butter° than a gianduja.
It tastes like a hazelnut butter too, with an almost savoury quality to it. The hazelnut dwarfs the carob notes, so while the carob is ever-present, it's in the background.
It doesn't bear much resemblance to Cadbury's nut bars nor Nutella. It behaves in a more grown-up and sophisticated way. This excites me, as I reckon WNWN could be on to a very good thing if they can find a way to intensify the hazelnut flavour and lesson the carob a touch.
If feels like they are 90% of the way there with this one, and if they can crack it, I think they'd end up with a solid product that would taste quite luxurious.
Which would I prefer - WNWN's bar or Cadburys? At the moment, Cadburys, but if WNWN can crack their recipe, I don't think there'd be much in it. The WNWN bar tastes by far less sweet, and far more elegant as it is, but if they can rid that pesky carob quality (or at least muffle it further), this might become a vegan cocoa-free gianduja worthy of buying.
Win-Win Vegan M*lk Choc Orange
In this bar, WNWN turns its sights on Terry and his humble Chocolate Orange. Again, this bar uses the same stock cocoa-free chocolate product as above, but adds orange and (perhaps, curiously) grapefruit oil to flavour it. I suspect the grapefruit oil is used to enhance the properties of the orange oil and add a touch of bitterness to add depth.
I had pipped this one as the bar that perhaps was the easiest to mask the carob aroma, but alas, the aroma is of carob at the top level and orange underneath. It's quite a dark, heavy orange flavour, akin to a blood orange.
Upon tasting, there's a noticeable tangy quality, most likely from the grapefruit oil. The orange flavour is quite serious and reminds me of blood orange. But the good news is that orange dominates the flavour over the carob. Well, until half way through. By that time, the orange flavour weakens just enough for the carob flavour to creep through and secure victory, meaning a carob-led aftertaste.
Which would I prefer - WNWN's bar or Terry's? I'll take Terry's Chocolate Orange without question.
Like the nut bar, this one shows promise, but feels slightly further away from the goal. Maybe 85% there. Lessen the carob flavour and we might have a contender, but what would probably set this bar apart is if the orange oil were replaced with a more lively and vibrant alternative. A bright Valencian orange oil, possibly with a bit of sherbet or acidity to give it some zip and pop (please not popping candy). As it stands, it's quite a serious bar but with a more vibrant orange flavour, this could feel fun and playful.
By the end, I still don't think we'd have a direct comparison, but if they can wrestle that carob flavour and enhance the intensity of the orange, I think they'd end up with another luxurious product.
What a difference a year makes. Hats off to WNWN. The team has been hard art work and has moved forward in leaps and bounds.
I can't quite believe I'm holding a bar of cocoa-free chocolate - that looks like chocolate, feels like chocolate, snaps like chocolate and behaves like chocolate, all without containing any cocoa - in my hands. Based on looks alone, they've nailed it.
In terms of flavours, the naked bar (in the Tony's lookalike packaging) is perhaps the one that most obviously screams it's not chocolate. Carob dominates the aroma and flavour. But the other two, and in particular the hazelnut bar, are so close to being something that would fool me into thinking it's chocolate.
The drawback to WNWN's range is still the price point. At an eye-watering £5 for one 48g bar (plus shipping), it's in a completely different league to its perceived competition, making it a tough sell. For comparison, WNWN comes in at £10.42 per 100g, while Tony's is £1.67 per 100g, Cadbury's Wholenut is £1.25 per 100g and Terry's Chocolate Orange is £0.96 per 100g based on the RRP of the smallest bars.
Until WNWN can find a way to making this product more cost effective, it'll struggle to convince the public en mass to back it, regardless of flavour. Until then, it'll remain a niche brand supplying chocolate-like bars to people who can't stomach cocoa or vegans looking for something a bit different to their usual munchies.
Where the world of flavour and higher price point might collide is if the nut and orange bar recipes can be refined. The result should be something that tastes indulgent and quite sophisticated. The type of thing you'd share at a dinner party rather than mindlessly chow down in front of the telly. A luxury cocoa-free chocolate, if you will.
It might sound bonkers, especially to chocolate fans, but if WNWN can suss it, I think they'd end up with quite an elegant and satisfying product, that could be seriously compared to high-end chocolate treats available today in London's swanky grocers and department stores.
I don't know about you, but seeing this much progress in a year makes me hopeful they'll suss it within the next twelve months. Fancy cocoa-free chocs for next Christmas, perhaps?
WNWN Limited Edition Trio of Cocoa-Free Chocolate Bars Review
RRP: £15.00 | WNWN | Shop now
A cheeky PR stunt from WNWN (inspired by Tony's Chocolonely's clone bars campaign) to highlight their cocoa-free chocolate. A steep price tag remains a problem, but the recipe has come on leaps and bounds. The carob flavour is the ultimate giveaway that this is a cocoa-free chocolate. The hazelnut and orange bars are close to masking that quality, but aren't quite there yet.
Where to Buy Online
Online, head to the WNWN website to pick up these bars here (£15 for three 48g bars).
In September, WNWN exhibited in Fortnum & Mason's Piccadilly store so you may have come across them then.
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Have you tried cocoa-free chocolate yet? is the future here already? Let me know in a comment below.