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Cocoa-free chocolate start-ups announce funding success
Melissa Bradshaw

Melissa Bradshaw

1 February 2024

Cocoa-free chocolate start-ups announce funding success

Planet A Foods and Voyage Foods, two start-ups that are developing cocoa-free chocolate, have announced recent successful funding raises. Planet A Foods, based in Munich, Germany, has announced today that it has closed a $15.4 million Series A funding round, led by climate venture fund World Fund. The funding will be used to support further mass-market expansion following major retail and brand partnerships for Planet A in 2023, including a partnership with Swiss chocolate giant Lindt. The start-up’s cocoa alternative, ChoViva, is produced using the company’s fermentation technologies. Natural, locally-sourced ingredients – including oats and sunflower seeds – are transformed into ChoViva, a cocoa mass and cocoa butter claimed to offer “melt-in-the-mouth texture” and “full-bodied chocolate flavour”. In addition to being used as a full chocolate replacement, ChoViva can also be incorporated into hybrid conventional chocolate products. An example of this can be found in the company’s collaboration with Lindt, which utilises ChoViva in its recently launched vegan chocolate bar. The ingredient contains up to 30% less sugar than traditional chocolate and has a low CO2 footprint due to local ingredients and short supply chains.

Planet A Foods’ team has already used some of the funding to scale up production at its factory, and says it can now produce 750kg of ChoViva per hour in an IFS-certified, efficient production environment. Max Marquart, Planet A Foods’ co-founder and CEO, said that chocolate will become “more expensive than caviar” in the future unless new steps are taken. He commented: “We are working every day to be part of the solution with ChoViva, through building a second pillar next to chocolate to take some load off the cocoa supply chain”. “We have become a reliable, trusted industry partner for the German confectionery industry, and demonstrated that we can deliver at price parity with traditional chocolate providers.” Co-founder and CTO Sara Marquart added that funding has already helped the company to enhance taste and texture, expediting the advancement of Planet A’s technology platform and allowing the start-up to hire “top-tier” experts in lipids, chocolate and synbio. In the US, another cocoa-free chocolate start-up, Voyage Foods, revealed last week that it had successfully raised an additional $22 million. This brings the company’s total funding to $64 million, backed by food and beverage venture capitals such as Valor Equity Partners and Horizons Ventures. Based in Oakland, California, Voyage Foods offers “milk,” semi-sweet and dark cocoa-free chocolate offerings that are created from upcycled seeds and fruits. The products aim to provide a 1:1 substitute to conventional chocolate in both flavour and texture, addressing challenges associated with the traditional chocolate supply chain such as environmental issues, and costly, unpredictable supply chain instability. A recently published third-party-validated life cycle assessment (LCA) from ESG consulting firm Sphera found that Voyage Foods’ cocoa-free chocolate requires 99% less blue water, equating to 67 times less blue water consumption compared with conventional chocolate. It also was found to generate up to 84% less greenhouse gas emissions and produce up to 88% fewer emissions from land use change, a major cause of deforestation in cocoa bean chocolate production regions. Adam Maxwell, CEO and co-founder of Voyage Foods, said: “At Voyage Foods, we are focused on addressing the environmentally harmful aspects of the chocolate industry and creating more sustainable, scalable, delicious counterparts”. He added: “We’re proposing that food companies can make more sustainable and ethically sourced products at a cost that on the industrial side is significantly less than current alternatives”.

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