Paulig PINC: invests in plant-based cheese start-up

Helsinki / FI. (pg) Paulig’s venture arm PINC, alongside Rockstart and other co-investors, has invested in Dutch plant-based cheese start-up Willicroft in a EUR 2m pre-series A investment round. Willicroft offers a range of plant-based cheeses, made by combining age-old techniques with planet-friendly ingredients such as beans and pulses. As a sustainability frontrunner, Finland’s Paulig Group actively seeks food and beverage innovations that enable the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. As the first certified B Corp cheese alternative in Europe, Willicroft’s products support this ambition. With this funding, the company will expand into new markets like the Nordics, the UK and Germany.

The plant-based food industry in Europe is growing at a record-level. Inspired by the dairy farming roots of its founders, Willicroft combines traditional techniques with high quality plant-based ingredients, creating alternatives that are not only better for the planet but also incredibly tasty.

«Willicroft is by far the tastiest plant-based cheese range we have come across. It has a more nutritious and sustainable ingredient list than most alternatives available today and a high-powered team with traction in Europe, so we could not be more excited to support this venture. Paulig wants to build a new, sustainable food culture that enables the wellbeing of the planet, and this investment supports that goal», says Marika King, Head of PINC, the venture arm of Paulig.

Consumers have become increasingly aware of food’s environmental footprint, but the carbon emissions of cheese are often overlooked. Willicroft is addressing this by producing plant-based alternatives that are just as tasty. Willicroft is one of the first cheese companies in Europe to base their product on beans and pulses, and their selection of plant-based cheeses ranges from soft spreads to hard cheese. They have especially paid attention to taste and mouthfeel, alongside sustainable, scalable production. Willicroft collaborates with farmers to provide more sustainable, locally produced ingredients, such as white beans.

«Our new bean-based range produces up to 5 times less CO2 than the dairy alternatives it’s replacing. With this new raise locked in we’ll be bringing our delicious, beautifully branded range of plant-based cheese to 3 new markets: the UK, Germany and the Nordics, bringing in senior talent and continuing on our quest to become the world’s first net positive plant-based cheese company. Our new investor group can help open up a number of new markets whilst also fast-tracking our products’ continued evolution», says Brad Vanstone, Co-Founder and CEO, Willicroft.

PINC led the EUR 2m seed round with Rockstart, a global early-stage investor, alongside Döhler and Feast Ventures as co-investors.

«Willicroft is taking plant-based dairy alternatives to the next level. Alongside making delicious products, they are helping farmers to transition to sustainable production by enabling a local supply chain without the need for monocropping or highly processed ingredients. They have spent the last years understanding their consumers and their footprint, and the next phase will be to put those learnings to scale», comments Mark Durno, Managing Partner AgriFood, Rockstart.