With dairy and meat alternatives increasingly embraced by consumers, London's WNWN is trying to carve out a niche in cocoa-free "alt chocolate" by using legumes, cereals and other plant-based ingredients to emulate chocolate's rich taste.
By eliminating palm oils, sugars and raw cocoa, WNWN hopes to significantly decrease sustainability risks inherent with chocolate's supply chains. Its process produces 80% less carbon.
Consumer concern over harms linked to cocoa production is growing, and regulators are clamping down. An EU statute passed in December prohibits cocoa being sold where wildlife and forests were cleared to form cocoa plantations, while consumers are becoming more aware of atrocious child labour that occurs in certain cocoa-producing countries. Cocoa crops are some of the most vulnerable to climate change, raising fears of chocolate shortages in years ahead.
Ahead of an envisaged UK retail launch this year, WNWN has secured $5.6 million in a round led by PeakBridge VC, also involving FoodLabs, Martin Braun-Gruppe (part of Geschwister Oetker), Mustard Seed Maze, PINC, Investbridge AgriTech, and HackCapital.
Vegans have had chocolate alternatives for a while. But WNWN's unique fermenting technology should mean that its product contains less sugar and no caffeine, appealing to the health-conscious end of vegan dining.
In addition, the vegan chocolate should be safe feed for canine pals since it doesn't contain an ingredient poisonous to dogs called theobromine .
At the moment WNWN has debuted two cocoa-free chocolate products, selling them to customers through direct-to-consumer channels as a testing of waters on its central concept. The first batches immediately sold out, WNWN said, in a "positive signal to future retail partners."
A new manufacturing plant has just launched upping WNWN's production capacity for third party supply deals and finished chocolate bars meant as gifts or sweet fodder in high-end hospitality establishments.
WNWN CEO Ahrum Pak commented: "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."
"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.”
The series A funding will be used to support WNWN's manufacturing capacity and grow headcount.