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Planet A Foods whips up more capital to take its cocoa-free chocolate global

Planet A Foods, a B2B sustainable ingredients company, announced $15.4 million in Series A funding.

The brother-and-sister founding team of Drs. Max and Sara Marquart started the Munich-based company to create a sustainable alternative to cocoa. When TechCrunch initially wrote about the company in 2021, it was going by the name QOA.

The idea behind the name change was that “there is no Planet B,” due to climate change and other environmental threats to the cocoa producing industry, Max Marquart told TechCrunch.

“We need to pay attention so that our Earth survives,” he said.

The climate woes have resulted in chocolate prices hitting a 45-year high in 2023, with cocoa bean futures trading at $4,362 per tonne, up 84% from 2022. This is amid a global chocolate confectionery industry expected to grow 5.6% annually through 2028.

Planet A Foods uses fermentation technology to turn all-natural, locally sourced ingredients — for example, oats and sunflower seeds — into its cocoa-free chocolate, ChoViva. The product features a melt-in-the-mouth texture and full-bodied chocolate flavor in milk, semi-sweet and white varieties. The product can be used in everything from baking to ice cream and contains up to 30% less sugar.

“I always say we want to be a ‘next-generation Cargill’ and a high-tech food ingredient company that delivers sustainable food ingredients to the industry,” Marquart said.

The company’s customer base includes food manufacturers Griesson-de Beukelaer and Peter Kölln and airline Lufthansa. Last year, the company also launched several products with German retailer REWE, while chocolatier Lindt recently launched a vegan chocolate product containing ChoViva.

Marquart expects to hit an eight-figure revenue by the end of 2024 as Planet A Foods plans an international expansion of ChoViva, starting with the United Kingdom, followed by other European markets, Asia and the United States. The company will also extend its fermentation platform to other plant-based ingredients with further product launches expected for the 2024 first quarter.

He intends to use the new capital to hire additional scientists to join Planet A Foods’ 50-person team in Germany in order to scale production of cocoa butter and palm oil alternatives to an industrial level. It has already scaled production at its facility to produce 750 kilograms of ChoViva per hour.

Meanwhile, the Series A round was led by World Fund with participation from an investor group that included Omnes Capital, Cherry Ventures, Mudcake, Nucleus Capital, Triple Point Capital and Feast Ventures.

“Sara, Max and the team have created the right product to tackle cocoa’s expansive climate impact,” said Daria Saharova, managing partner at World Fund, in a statement. “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 food tech investment is testament to their success.”