Voyage Foods’ cocoa-free chocolate sidesteps sustainability, pricing and supply chain challenges of conventional counterpart, life cycle analysis reveals

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Voyage Foods
Source: Voyage Foods

Related tags Voyage Foods Cocoa

Food-tech startup Voyage Foods’ clean-label cocoa-free chocolate offers manufacturers a one-to-one replacement for traditional chocolate that it says doesn’t compromise taste or texture but, according to a new life cycle analysis, bypasses many of the unsustainable environmental issues. unpredictable supply chain challenges and pricing volatility of its conventional counterpart.

According to the ESG consulting firm Sphera, Voyage Foods’ cocoa- and dairy-free ‘milk’ and semi-sweet chocolate use 99% less blue water, generate between 81% and 84% fewer greenhouse gases and use 68% to 88% fewer greenhouse gas emissions from land use change.

“From day zero, [Voyage Foods] has existed to tackle some of these commodities that have serious long-term accessibility risks and which also happen to be some of the worst emitters of greenhouse gas and users of water and land … and we’re really happy that now there is third-party certified and signed data that validates what we have been predicated on,” co-founder and CEO Adam Maxwell told FoodNavigator-USA.

He explained that by using proprietary technology, Voyage Foods recreates the taste, texture and overall eating experience of many beloved, but also environmentally-taxing, foods with wholesome ingredients that are more sustainable.

For example, the company’s cocoa-free chocolate replaces cocoa seeds with upcycled grape seeds from postharvest wine production that are combined with vegetable oil, cane sugar, sunflower protein flour, natural flavors, sunflower lecithin and salt.

“It is all very clean label. These are innocuous ingredients, whole ingredients that people understand … but what is special about Voyage is really the transformation of these low or no value materials” into popular products consumers want, like chocolate, Maxwell said.

He explained that not only does Voyage’s cocoa-free chocolate taste and smell like traditional chocolate, but it also behaves the same from a manufacturing perspective and can be swapped into a recipe without requiring specialized equipment or adjustments to a product formula.

“One of the key pieces from day zero for us was if there was any capital expenditure required from our potential customers then they wouldn’t become actual customers. …. And so whether it is rheology, pumpability yield curve or any other spec, our product is a one to one replacement. It also is basically nutritionally identical and so it doesn’t really affect your nutrition panel from a calories, fat and protein standpoint, either,” Maxwell explained.

He also noted that Voyage Foods has “really great, large scale external sensory data showing our chocolate has parity to some of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world. And so, it’s not just me saying it tastes good or an investor saying it tastes good, but there are large, randomized trials and sensory tests that found statistical parity.”

Voyage Foods ‘sidesteps’ price, supply volatility of traditional commodity markets

What is different – aside from the ingredients and sustainability – is the reliability of the price and supply of Voyage Foods’ cocoa-free chocolate compared to traditional cocoa-based chocolate, according to Maxwell.

“While most commodities are down heavily from last year, cocoa is up something like 75077% in the last 12 months, which is crazy. And [volume] is down something like 30% year-over-year” due to rain issues in one of the limited regions in which it is produced, Maxwell said.

“We can totally sidestep that entire volatility because we are not touching cocoa beans or some of these very volatile commodity markets. … We are sourcing from side streams that are not supply-demand focused, which makes them inherently more stable,” he said. “And because we use very cost-effective inputs, we can come in at a price point that is at or below the true commodities.”

Voyage Foods secures $22m to scale production, support new products

The validation of Voyage Foods’ sustainability offered by Sphera, announced today, comes a week after the company says it raised an additional $22m – bringing its funding to date to $64m with support from venture capitalists including Valor Equity Partners, Horizon Ventures, UBS O’Connor, Level One Fund and others.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth and we’ve reached a much larger scale in terms of production and we have the data to back up our claims. So we are finding these areas where we are really winning and we thought now is the time to invest in winning, invest in growth and really try to bring these products to the masses in a material way,” which this capital infusion will support, Maxwell said.

The funding comes at a time when many investors are pulling back, but Maxwell says one of Voyage Foods’ lead investors volunteered additional capital based on the company’s “impressive” work and “scrappy” approach to capital management.

“Everything we buy got on discount or at auction markets. Our R&D equipment is used. We’ve been really afraid to let loose and spend our capital” and that has made Voyage Foods a good steward of investors’ money, Maxwell said.

The new capital also will help Voyage Foods bring to market new products, which it plans to unveil “early this year,” added Maxwell.

In addition to the cocoa-free chocolate, which is available B2B along with a bean-free coffee that is also available through foodservice, Voyage Foods also sells peanut-free and hazelnut-free spreads in more than 1,400 retail doors (including 1,100 Walmart stores), and are on Amazon​ and​, too.

The company's LCA report is also available on the impact page​ of the company's website. 

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