London-based start-up WNWN (pronounced win-win) has plans to expand from a purely direct-to-consumer business model into retail, first in the UK and then into Europe.
The decision comes following the closure of a $5.6m (€5.2m) funding round led by VC PeakBridge with participation from FoodLabs, Geschwister, Oetker, Mustard Seed Maze, PINC, Investbridge, AgriTech, and HackCapital.
Making chocolate without cocoa
WNWN makes chocolate without cocoa. The start-up’s process is founded on traditional fermentation techniques, but instead of fermenting and roasting cocoa beans, WNWN makes its chocolate alternative from fermented barley and carob.
The start-up couples the two ingredients to develop a ‘deliciously chocolatey profile’, CTO Dr Johnny Drain told FoodNavigator in a recent interview. Instead of cocoa butter, the company is using shea fat sourced from Ghana. The end result is a dark chocolate alternative with a similar nutritional profile to that of conventional chocolate – albeit containing slightly less sugar. A cocoa-free milk chocolate alternative is also on WNWN’s radar.
“We’re trying to replicate the experience of chocolate,” Dr Drain explained. In terms of flavour, the start-up claims to have achieved the archetypal bitterness associated with dark chocolate, as well as its ‘fruity acidity’.
WNWN launched its first product just over a year ago direct-to-consumer. With this new funding, the start-up is now scaling up manufacturing and adding headcount with plans to bring branded products to retail later this year.
According to Dr Drain, the funding represents a validation of the start-up’s science and ability to scale. “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.”
Indeed, habitat destruction, and unfair labour and trade practices, are prevalent within the cocoa supply chain.
WNWN’s retail launch comes as food makers prepare for incoming due diligence legislation, which will ban cocoa associated with environmental or human rights violations from entering the EU supply chain. “This investment is…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,” said WNWN CEO Ahrum Pak.
FoodNavigator understands WNWN is currently developing its product line for the retail launch, with retail partners yet to be disclosed.