Exclusive: WNWN Food Labs among Mondelēz International’s CoLab Tech accelerator scheme

UK alt-choc business WNWN Food Labs has been named among nine start-up enterprises forming part of Mondelēz International’s CoLab Tech accelerator programme designed to support global businesses focused on sustainable and technology-driven product manufacturing, reports Neill Barston.

The London-based start-up has gained headlines around the world for the potential of its cocoa-free chocolate, which last year claimed an innovation accolade at our World Confectionery Conference, with the business being among guests for this year’s show on 5 October at the Harrogate Convention Centre, Yorkshire, UK, with registration remaining open for the event.

As Mondelēz noted, the scheme has identified emerging enterprises across the confectionery, biscuits and snacks industries with potentially disruptive solutions that have also set the agenda for helping reduce carbon footprints, enhancing sensory experiences, improving nutritional values and production processes.

Among other firms within the selected group of nine businesses is group of Captic, a Belgium-based start-up delivers secure and reliable AI-vision solutions that can integrate into a company’s current production processes to provide actionable insights to optimise production efficiency. The list also includes Germany’s Computomics, which has devised a platform that uses machine learning and metagenomics analysis to monitor different types of pathogens in real time, from the early soil stages to manufacturing facilities.

Additionally, the group includes Cultivated Biosciences, a Swiss-based start-up uses fermentation technology to create a sustainable dairy-free, creamy fat ingredient that can substitute for animal-based ingredients in multiple functions and formulas.

The firm is joined by Eggmented Reality, an Israeli firm using material sciences and precision fermentation to develop customised ingredient functionality solutions, and three further businesses including US company Epogee, producing modified plant-based oils to reduce up to 92% of calories, and Italian company Prote-in, specialising in carbon-negative farm-free proteins, plus US-based SoilTech Wireless, focused on wireless sensing technology and data analytics platforms to help drive optimisation, sustainability and traceability throughout the global agriculture supply. Rounding out the group, French company Stephane Thermal Runs, optimising thermal profiling in baked snacks.

As Mondelez explained, its tech-savvy cohort of nine will participate in a 12-week curriculum that includes hands-on experiences, virtual sessions, 1:1 mentorship and access to Mondelēz International’s global network of partners and experts.

“One of the most exciting parts of this process was learning about the creative and clever solutions being developed across the globe to solve the food industry’s most pressing ingredient, process and sustainability challenges,” said Ian Noble, Vice President for Global Ingredient Research & Development at Mondelēz International. “We are eager to start learning from and collaborating with these cutting-edge entrepreneurs who will introduce us to new capabilities and also learn from our expertise.”

Dr Johnny Drain, co-founder of WNWN Food Labs believed the scheme had genuine potential for the development of its own enterprises, which are continuing to be developed, as the business looks to take its production to the next level, partnering with manufacturers in Europe.

He said: “While the track records of the big companies in cocoa and chocolate speak for themselves, it’s important to note that if we want to see real change and improvement in the industry those players have to get meaningfully onboard with new ways of working: the world won’t change without them changing. This scheme is an opportunity for us to present our approaches and concerns to them. We step into the collab with an open mind and curiosity.”

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