The CarboRite brand, established in America's low-carb confectionery segment, has launched a range of four chocolate bars in the UK under the name Carbolite. They are currently being sold through the Superdrug and Benjy's chains with further stores expected to follow. Cereal bars will also be introduced.
The British are obsessed with weight loss but are also the biggest consumers of chocolate, according to Datamonitor research. And the low-carb trend is gaining hold, with an estimated 3 million Britons currently following a low carb diet.
In Carbolite's bars, sugar alcohols such as maltitol are used in place of sugar. Sugar alcohols have little or no impact on blood sugar levels, significantly reducing carbohydrate levels over a normal chocolate bar. Milk is replaced with a milk protein and a milk fat ingredient to remove any sugar derived from milk. The products are therefore also suitable for people with diabetes.
A Gallup poll published last year showed that 12.8 million Britons are on a diet at any one time, with 60 per cent of them on a specific programme carrying medical or celebrity endorsement. And 1.7 million people claim they are constantly on a diet.
This is fuelled by the soaring obesity rates in the UK. The think-tank IOTF recently warned that without immediate action, 40 per cent of the population would be obese by the next generation. Low-carb diets have been shown in some studies to be effective, although experts warn that there is no long-term research to show potential harm.
Carbolite is expecting demand to meet the sales seen in the US. It claims that the first bars to hit the shelves in the UK sold out within hours and shipments have had to be increased ahead of schedule to cope with demand.
The company has just beaten Atkins Nutritionals, the firm set up by the pioneer of low-carb diets, Robert Atkins, onto the UK market. Atkins is rolling out its food range in the UK in January, with leading pharmacy chain Boots the first to stock the products.