Consumer choice bolstered as ethical cacao-free chocolate hits market in world first

London-based food tech startup, WNWN Food Labs, has made a huge leap in sustainable and ethical food production with the release of the first cacao-free chocolate for sale to consumers.

In less than a year since the company’s $1 million pre-seed funding, WNWN (pronounced ‘win-win’) has rapidly developed its proprietary process to transform sustainable, plant-based ingredients using technology and traditional fermentation techniques into a cacao-free product that tastes, melts, snaps and even bakes like the original.

The limited edition release of boxes of WNWN’s chocolate thins marks significant progression in the world of alt-food production, with the UK company being the first in the world to bring a cacao-free product to market. Providing more choice to ethically minded, flavour-focused consumers, WNWN’s creation is not only cacao-free, but vegan, caffeine-free, gluten-free, palm oil-free and lower in sugar than comparable products.

Ahrum Pak, co-founder and CEO of WNWN, says: “At WNWN, we love food – we’re not anti-chocolate. We want to offer consumers that all-important choice when choosing a chocolate product; a choice that does not support the unethical and unsustainable practices baked into most mainstream chocolate production.”

Large-scale chocolate production has a darker side: more than 1.5 million child labourers are estimated to be working in cacao production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The farming of cacao is also contributing to widespread deforestation in West Africa, with Cote d’Ivoire losing an estimated 94% of its forest cover in the last 60 years – driven in part by traditional chocolate production. Chocolate production also emits more CO2 per kg than chicken or pork, and requires more than 24,000L of water per 1kg of chocolate.

The UK’s Environment Act (2021) requires better environmental standards for commodities produced in rainforest areas, but fails to cover cocoa.

Dr Johnny Drain, co-founder and CTO of WNWN, further explains: “With an absence of meaningful UK regulation, now and for the foreseeable future, we’re opening up the space for British chocolate consumers to buy ethically – essentially taking matters into their own hands.”

WNWN’s first product – using ingredients including British barley, carob and organic shea butter – is a cacao-free chocolate with notes of sticky toffee pudding, dates, cherries, and a rich, buttery finish. In blind taste tests alongside cacao-based chocolate, the products were described by consumers as ‘very similar’.

“Using fermentation we’re able to create a suite of similar flavour compounds found in cacao. We can dial up certain flavours and even adjust the acidity to bring out notes found in premium single-origin chocolates,” Drain adds.

Working to future-proof the world’s favourite foods from climate change and compelling the monopolies producing them to limit biodiversity loss, pay fairer wages and support better working conditions, WNWN also plans to explore the development of other alt-foods including coffee, tea and vanilla, which each have supply chains mired in unethical and unsustainable practices.

A limited-release box of dark chocolate thins will be available to purchase from 18 May exclusively at www.wnwnfoodlabs.com. Each box sells for £10 GB, on par with premium chocolates.

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