Paulig PINC: invests in the world’s first cocoa-free chocolate

Helsinki / FI. (pg) Paulig’s venture arm PINC has invested in the British startup WNWN Food Labs, the first company to bring cocoa-free «chocolate» to market. The investment supports Paulig Group’s aim to develop a food culture that enables the well-being of people and the planet. WNWN’s technology is highly scalable, and the investment round will accelerate the company’s expansion.

Chocolate is one of the most beloved food products on the planet. The overall chocolate market is large and growing, in 2022, consumers globally consumed chocolate for 180 billion EUR and the market is estimated to increase to 290 billion EUR in 2030. Cacao is however a crop threatened by climate change that will get more expensive as supply gets scarcer and demand continues to increase. Since the environmental impact from cocoa production is also high, an alternative chocolate market has emerged as one of the hottest sub-sectors within food tech.

WNWN has developed a highly scalable process for making a flavor-identical, cacao-free and more affordable alternative chocolate using traditional fermentation and advanced food processing. The startup’s alternative, cocoa-free chocolate looks, smells, tastes, melts, snaps and bakes like the real thing. The food and beverage industry has shown a very strong interest for the alternative chocolate as it is a great complement to traditional cacao, especially for hybrid products such as coating and ice cream.

«We are thrilled to invest in WNWN and be part of their growth journey», says Elisabet Ålander, Senior Investment Manager at PINC. «This skilled team has succeeded to create a delicious, cocoa-free, alternative chocolate with a clear B2B value proposition, using efficient production methods with no regulatory hurdles. In addition, as a sustainability frontrunner, we are also helping the transition of the food system».

The ingredients being used, such as British barley and carob, are widely available and the production method straightforward. The result is a more affordable, sustainable and cocoa-free product.

«WNWN is creating a win-win situation for food producers, consumers, and the environment», says Ahrum Pak, CEO of WNWN. «Our cocoa-free chocolate can have a positive impact on the food and beverage industry’s sustainability, and PINC’s investment helps make it possible to scale up our production, expand on our B2B and B2C markets and increase the company’s research and development efforts.»

Dr Johnny Drain, CTO of WNWN, says «We’re not anti-chocolate, far from it. We’re against the strain the conventional cocoa supply chain places on the planet, and we aim to alleviate the pressures on the system by creating a viable and delicious alternative.»

The alternative chocolate releases, according to WNWN’s own calculations, about 80 percent less CO2 and uses 86 percent less water during the production process compared to conventional chocolate.

The investment round of 5 million EUR was led by the venture capital firm PeakBridge and also included Mustard Seed Maze, Investbridge AgriTech, Geschwister Oetker and the HackCapital in addition to PINC, as well as existing investor FoodLabs.