FoodTech VC firm PeakBridge has led a £4.5m ($5.6m) investment in WNWN Food Labs.

PeakBridge invests in innovative, scalable, climate and health-focused companies with protectable technologies.

London-based WNWN Food Labs was founded in 2020 and was the first company to bring cocoa-free chocolate to market.

WNWN will use the investment to scale up manufacturing and add headcount as it prepares for a UK retail launch later in 2023.

WNWN CEO Ahrum Pak said: “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.”

WNWN CTO Dr Johnny Drain said: “This funding is a validation of our science and our 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.”

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WNWN employs a proprietary fermentation process to transform widely available plant-based ingredients like cereals and legumes to create cocoa-free choc that tastes, melts, snaps and bakes just like chocolate. Its formula is vegan, caffeine-free, gluten-free, palm oil-free, lower in sugar than comparable products, and safe for dogs since it contains no theobromine.

Cocoa-free WNWN products produce 80 per cent less carbon emissions than conventional chocolates, based on an internal lifecycle analysis.

Erich Sieber, founding partner at PeakBridge, said: “Ingredient innovations like WNWN’s are key to building a more resilient, equitable, sustainable food system, and this in turn opens the doors to other goals like responsible production and consumption.

“Not only does WNWN’s product have the potential to offer health benefits and address sustainability concerns, but it also opens up a world of exciting flavour possibilities. We are confident that WNWN will lead the charge in this category and are proud to be part of this journey.”

WNWN has already released two cocoa-free chocolate products via direct-to-consumer channels to test its concept. Both its dark choc thins and Waim! bar, its take on the classic Daim bar, sold out immediately—a positive signal to future retail partners.

Since the product launches the company has taken on a new facility that increased its production space eightfold. With its expansion, WNWN has begun supplying partners with ingredients and finished products for projects like curated gifts and high-end restaurants and bars.

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Consumers are increasingly concerned about deforestation, habitat destruction, and unfair labor practices in the conventional chocolate supply chain. More than a million child laborers are estimated to work in Ivory Coast and Ghana, where three-quarters of the world’s cocoa is grown.

Cocoa crops are also vulnerable due to climate change, including rising temperatures and reduced rainfall, which has led experts to predict chocolate shortages