WNWN Food Labs gains major funding for scaling up cocoa-free chocolate
British-based WNWN Food Labs, a cocoa-free chocolate business has confirmed a key step in its development, after raising $5.6 million to enable scaling up of its operations, reports Neill Barston.
The company, which was among winners at our World Confectionery Awards last year, has gained strong momentum for the sustainability credentials for the business, which has been developed as a direct response to the sector’s major supply chain issues of child labour and deforestation.
WNWN has already released two cocoa-free chocolate products via direct-to-consumer channels to test its concept. Both its dark choc thins and Waim! bar, its take on the classic Daim bar, sold out immediately—a positive signal to future retail partners.
As the firm explained, the funding round was led by PeakBridge, a foodtech VC firm investing in innovative, scalable, climate- and health-focused companies with protectable technologies. The company is a core member of EIT Food, which reportedly invests globally in early-stage and Series A companies, having a long-term positive impact on food systems.
Food Labs extended its commitment with follow-on investment. The round also included participation from Geschwister Oetker Beteiligungen Group via its subsidiary Martin Braun-Gruppe, Mustard Seed Maze, PINC, Investbridge AgriTech, and HackCapital.
WNWN will use the investment to scale up manufacturing and add headcount as it prepares for a UK retail launch later in 2023.
“This blend of VCs gives us deep and strategic food tech experience to make a significant positive impact, and with PeakBridge’s partnership and team, we are well on our way to create a tastier, more ethical future of food,” said WNWN CEO Ahrum Pak. “This investment is also very timely given the new European ban on cocoa linked to deforestation, as WNWN can reduce the cocoa supply chain’s strain on the planet and on cocoa farmers entrenched in poverty.”
As we previously covered, the business employs a proprietary fermentation process to transform widely available plant-based ingredients like cereals and legumes to create cocoa-free choc that tastes, melts, snaps and bakes just like chocolate. Its formula is vegan, caffeine-free, gluten-free, palm oil-free, lower in sugar than comparable products, and safe for dogs since it contains no theobromine. Cocoa-free WNWN products produce 80% less carbon emissions than conventional chocolates, based on an internal lifecycle analysis.
“Ingredient innovations like WNWN’s are key to building a more resilient, equitable, sustainable food system, and this in turn opens the doors to other goals like responsible production and consumption,” said Erich Sieber, Founding Partner at PeakBridge. “Not only does WNWN‘s product have the potential to offer health benefits and address sustainability concerns, but it also opens up a world of exciting flavor possibilities. We are confident that WNWN will lead the charge in this category and are proud to be part of this journey.”
“This funding is a validation of our science and our ability to scale,” said WNWN CTO Dr. Johnny Drain. “With demand for chocolate said to be increasing year over year, conventional supply chains can’t keep up, at least not at the expense of the planet and human dignity.”
Since the product launches the company has taken on a new facility that increased its production space eightfold. With its expansion, WNWN has begun supplying partners with ingredients and finished products for projects like curated gifts and high-end restaurants and bars.