Today, there is both a clear need and an enormous market for affordable, planet-friendly food products. Chocolate prices just hit a 45-year high amid worsening climate impact, with US cocoa futures appreciating over 40% year-on-year. At the same time, the global chocolate confectionery industry, valued at $254 billion in 2024, is expected to grow annually by over 5.6% between 2024 and 2028.
This is where, Planet A Foods, the next-generation startup from Germany comes into the picture by delivering sustainable and nutritious ingredients to the food industry.
In a recent development, the Munich-headquartered startup bagged a $15.4 million Series A funding round. It was led by a European leading climate venture fund, World Fund, with participation from Omnes Capital that recently invested in Quantum Systems and Quandela, Cherry Ventures, Mudcake, Nucleus Capital, TriplePoint Capital, Feast Ventures, and others. This follows the landmark FMCG partnership announced in 2023.
Planet A Foods will use the fresh capital to power the international expansion of its cocoa-free chocolate ChoViva into the UK. The company will extend its fermentation platform from cocoa to other plant-based ingredients. Furthermore, the funding will strengthen Planet A Foods’ position as the leader in the market for chocolate alternatives and fermented ingredients.
Some of the funding will be used to scale up production at its factory. It can now produce 750 kg of ChoViva per hour in an IFS-certified and highly efficient production environment.
Plans ahead for 2024
Planet A Foods has a slate of product launches planned for 2024. The founders are looking to immediately make several key strategic hires into their 40+strong team in Germany. The siblings are also kickstarting global expansion plans with meaningful conversations with strategic distribution partners in other European markets, across Asia, and the US.
ChoViva, a sustainable cocoa alternative
Planet A Foods was launched in 2021 by twins Drs. Max and Sara Marquart in a bid to deliver a sustainable alternative to cocoa for the world’s chocolate lovers. The company’s fermentation process uses proprietary technologies to turn all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients, including oats and sunflower seeds into ChoViva, a cocoa mass and cocoa butter with a melt-in-the-mouth texture and full-bodied chocolate flavour.
The product can be used in a hybrid context with conventional chocolate, or as a full replacer. It contains up to 30% less sugar and has a very low CO2 footprint due to local ingredients and short supply chains.
How was the idea born?
Max, a material scientist by background and a two-time startup founder, was inspired to start the company after reading an eye-opening book by Rob Dunn called “Never out of Season”, which detailed this dire situation.
The entrepreneur’s sister Sara, a food chemist and expert in biotechnology with a specialty in flavour formation who previously worked as Head of Flavour at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences was perfectly placed to tackle the problem of creating a product that tasted like chocolate without using any cocoa. The siblings teamed up and decided to go for it.
Dr Max Marquart, Planet A Foods co-founder and CEO, said: “In the future, chocolate will become more expensive than caviar unless new steps are taken. 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. This Series A round has already enabled us to deliver large-scale production and continuously supply our customers with ChoViva. 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. Now we are gearing up for our international expansion in 2024 and beyond, and are looking for the next Willy Wonkas to help us scale and enter new markets!”
Dr Sara Marquart, Planet A Foods co-founder and CTO, said: “Fueled by the funding, we not only broadened our product portfolio but also enhanced taste and texture, solidifying our position as the leading force in the alternative cocoa and chocolate sector. The Series A additionally expedited the advancement of our technology platform, allowing us to hire top-tier experts in the realms of lipids, chocolate, and synbio. We have now scaled up the production of our cocoa butter and palm oil alternatives to an industrial level, and are positioned for exciting new product launches.”
Daria Saharova, Managing Partner at World Fund, said: “Sara, Max and the team have created the right product to tackle cocoa’s expansive climate impact, at the right time – as chocolate prices jump to record highs. Since we invested in the company in 2021, we’ve been proud of their fantastic development. Within three years they have turned a proof-of-concept into an industry-ready product on shelves and established partnerships with global giants. The fact that this Series A funding round was oversubscribed despite a wider downturn in foodtech investment is testament to their success. We are thrilled to have led this round for Planet A Foods, and can’t wait to help the team deliver on their ambitious global expansion plans in 2024 and beyond.”