news

PLANET A FOODS

Planet A Foods raises $15.4M to power ambitious expansion and bring sustainable cocoa-free chocolate to global customers 

The Munich-based B2B foodtech startup was launched by twins Drs. Max and Sara Marquart in 2021 and has seen surging demand as chocolate prices remain at a 45-year high

  • Planet A Foods uses fermentation technology to produce ChoViva, the world’s first and leading cocoa-free chocolate brand, supplies major firms including Griesson-de Beukelaer, Peter Kölln, and Lufthansa
  • The Y Combinator-backed startup’s product is already available in the shelves of the leading German retailer REWE, with further product launches slated for Q1 2024
  • Its Series A funding round, led by World Fund with participation from Omnes Capital, Cherry Ventures, Mudcake, Nucleus Capital, Feast Ventures and Triple Point Capital. 
  • New capital will be used to power international expansion of their cocoa-free chocolate ChoViva  into further key markets including the UK, and to extend their fermentation platform from cocoa to other plant-based ingredients.
  • The funding will strengthen Planet A Foods’ position as the leader in the market for chocolate alternatives and fermented ingredients.

Munich, Germany, February 1st 2024: Planet A Foods, the next-generation ingredient champion delivering sustainable and nutritious ingredients to the food industry, today announced it has closed a $15.4 million Series A funding round. Funds will be used to fuel further mass-market expansion following a landmark FMCG partnership announced in 2023, and to make ChoViva, the B2B foodtech startup’s cocoa alternative, even more affordable.

The round was led by Europe’s leading climate venture fund, World Fund, with participation from Omnes Capital, Cherry Ventures, Mudcake, Nucleus Capital, TriplePoint Capital, Feast Ventures and many more. After closing the round in 2023, Planet A Foods has launched several products with REWE, one of the leading European retailers, and is now preparing for further launches with REWE and other German & UK retailers. Besides retailers, key partnerships of Planet A Foods include Griesson - de Beukelaer, Peter Kölln, Spitz, Hans Freitag & Lufthansa. Lindt recently launched a vegan chocolate product which contains ChoViva.  

The Planet A Foods team has already used some of the funding to scale up production at its factory, and can now produce 750kg of ChoViva per hour in an IFS-certified and highly efficient production environment.

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 melt-in-the-mouth texture and full-bodied chocolate flavour. The product can be used in 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.

It started with a problem: “Chocolate will become more expensive than caviar unless drastic, tech-driven steps are taken” 

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 craving for chocolate is soaring all around the world, but growing conventional production comes at a high cost and is increasingly challenging. Climate change - and the broader biodiversity crisis -  is threatening the viability of producing the cocoa needed to meet demand. Crop yields in West Africa are being decimated by adverse weather conditions and crop diseases, and harvestable ground is becoming increasingly scarce.

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. "I thought: 'Do we really want a world without chocolate?',” he says.  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. 

"After hundreds of experiments we came up with our first edible prototype, and then saw everything turbocharged when we were accepted by Y Combinator," Sara said. "After Y Combinator, we came to be known as the ‘chocolate siblings’, and our products have now been tasted all over the world, from Mexico to Japan.” 

The solution: A market-leading startup with huge plans catering to rising demand 

Today there is both a clear need and an enormous market for the siblings’ affordable, planet-friendly product. 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.  

Planet A Foods has a slate of product launches planned for 2024, and the founders are looking to immediately make several key strategic hires into their 40+strong team in Germany. Funds raised will be used to deliver a launch into the UK this year, and to further optimize their production system. The siblings are also kickstarting global expansion plans with meaningful conversations with strategic distribution partners in other European markets, across Asia, and the US.  

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.” 

ENDS

About World Fund

World Fund is the leading Europe-focused climate venture capital fund established by Daria Saharova, Danijel Višević, Craig Douglas, and Tim Schumacher. From energy, food, agriculture, and land use, to building materials, manufacturing and transport, World Fund is investing in European tech with significant climate performance potential (CPP). The investment team comprises engineers, physicists, chemists, biologists, early and growth stage investors. World Fund is backing the entrepreneurs building tech for a regenerative world.

About Planet A Foods 

Planet A Foods is the leading next-generation ingredient champion delivering sustainable, nutritious ingredients to the food industry. The company, launched in 2021, uses innovative preparation processes and solely natural ingredients to develop sustainable, future-proofed products that are created independently of highly limited resources such as cocoa, palm oil or land. Its portfolio includes the world's first cocoa-free chocolate, ChoViva, which is made from regional oats and sunflower seeds. Its team of 40 heads up operations at HQ in Planegg near Munich, and manufactures its products in Pilsen, Czech Republic. In 2023, the company introduced its first products in German supermarkets in partnership with Peter Kölln and Griesson - de Beukelaer. The company is led by co-founder Sara Marquart as CTO, co-founder Max Marquart as CEO, with Stefan Rost as CFO.

Media contact (Planet A Foods)

Ute Schellenberg | Head of Marketing 
press@forplaneta.com
 

Harry Ashcroft

harry@worldfund.vc

Ute Schellenberg

Head of Marketing

press@forplaneta.com

Treecard raises $23 million in Series A funding to build the environmental super app to enable more sustainable lifestyles

Read more
Media

InvestEU: EIF invests €50 million into climate tech VC World Fund

Read more
Media

Battery recycling startup cylib raises €8m seed extension round to accelerate plans for new recycling factory

Read more
Media