Andrew Marten has an exceptional reputation in the world of product branding, having worked on launches of everything from lingerie ranges, such as Wonderbra, to skincare brands for teens, including, Elizabeth’s Daughter. Most recently he’s become one quarter of the brains (and money) behind the latest probiotic craze – ohso chocolate.
ohso launched in Harvey Nichols and at several other select retailers, as well as online, in January this year (2012). Harvey Nichol’s London stocks sold out within 10 days, and proceeded to sell out three times within the first month. You can’t really get a better start than that, can you? I met with Marten just before the launch of the latest ohso flavour – orange – to find out, why chocolate, how it works, and whether it really does taste just like chocolate.
How did you come to be involved with the ohso brand?
I came to it from a slightly unusual direction. I spent the last 30 years developing brands in the beauty industry – skincare, fragrance and fashion – as well as working for some of the major blue chip companies. My passion is really product and brand development. ohso was a happy coincidence. I was having problems with my stomach, mostly stress related, and I was reading about probiotics when I bumped into a friend who happened to work in the chocolate business and had created the idea of probiotic chocolate. I tried the product and it was brilliant, it made a big difference to me, so I had personal reasons to get on board.
We spent nearly two years developing the product. We wanted to make people happy at the same time as making them healthy. We are a health product first, confectionery second. You can have a little treat each day which is healthy for you – that’s got to be a winning combination. After all, it’s only 72 calories per bar!
Can you explain the science behind the product?
Well, for one thing, my stomach is a lot better! We’ve got three really strong, crucial points. There’s lots of probiotic products available, mostly dairy, yogurt drinks. The acids in the stomach tend to attack yogurt drinks so much that there is a massive loss of bacteria and even during the storing process the product degenerates. Instead we manufacture it in a little bar which has got around a billion Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. These are encapsulated, so the number doesn’t drop when you’re storing it – we’ve got a shelf life of 12 months – and are kept live until you eat it. The chocolate protects the bacteria and allows for slow release in transit through the stomach. The acids in the stomach don’t attack the bacteria and kill them off so quickly. We did a lot of independent testing with the University of Ghent in Belgium which is the leading food technology institute in Europe. They’ve independently verified that if you take the same amount of product in a dairy drink and our bar, our bar has a three-to-four times more effective delivery. We’re also wheat- and gluten-free.
How much do you have to eat to see a difference?
You only need to have one little bar a day and you’ll get your daily dose of probiotics.
Does it really taste like real chocolate?
We wanted to make sure it would not be too bitter because some people don’t like that. We knew we couldn’t do a milk chocolate because we wanted it to be dairy-free. We brought the cocoa content down to 53% and that means it’s really creamy but still dark. We’re also launching an orange version. Forget the usual chocolate orange, it’s incredibly intense and delicious. We’re looking to launch a third flavour early next year too.
Where can we get it?
We initially launched in Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, and at regional Harvey Nics outposts too. Online grocer Ocado also stocks up. Plus we do delivery. You can order a pack to arrive weekly. There’s no delivery charge. There’s no commitment, you can cancel after one week, or change your order at any time. Packs come with seven bars, so you’ll have enough for a week and because they are so small you can pop it in your handbag for when you’re out and about. We’re aiming to launch in the States by the end of this year too. It’s not just in the shops and online though, you can find it on one particular international airline and even on the pillows at the luxury London hotel, The Hemple.
ohso, available in 7-bar weekly packs for convenience. RRP £3.99 for a pack of 7, 13.5g bars www.ohsolovesyourtummy.com.
Use promo code “ohsoglam” to receive a free first pack, and 50% off your second purchase, when you buy through the ohso site.
Also available from Harvey Nichols Food Hall, Ocado, Nutri Centre and independent retailers nationwide.