© Planet A Foods

Planet A Foods: Successful with cocoa-free chocolate

From its founding two years ago, to setting up its own production, to its first product for the mass market, Planet A Foods has already achieved a lot. The Munich-based startup produces cocoa-free chocolate under the brand name Choviva, primarily for the food industry. In the update interview, Co-Founder and CTO Sara Marquart and Co-Founder and CEO Max Marquart talk about their journey so far and the future plans of their startups.

Munich Startup: You founded Planet A Foods two years ago, and last year the public was allowed to test your cocoa-free chocolate in ice cream form for the first time. Now you have the first products on supermarket shelves with Choviva mueslis from Kölln. When you founded the company, did you think you’d get this far in two years?

Sara Marquart and Max Marquart, Planet A Foods: From the beginning, our mission was clear: we wanted to quickly make a significant impact to achieve our vision of saving 500 million tons of CO2 per year. We realized early on that it was critical to have our products present in the mass market, and this vision has always driven us. During our time at Y-Combinator, we have learned to think big, and this has further strengthened our resolve. Therefore, from the beginning, our stated goal was to reach the point we have now reached in just two years. We are deeply grateful to everyone involved for enabling us to achieve this ambitious goal.

Munich Startup: Was it difficult to convince the industry of your cocoa-free chocolate?

Max Marquart: In the end, the industry can be convinced if the taste, the concept, the economic factors and the integration into production are right. Of course, this takes time and has its challenges.

Up to 90 percent lower carbon footprint

Munich Startup: How has your product evolved?

Sara Marquart: Choviva has continued to develop. We have tested a great many raw materials to get as close as possible to the taste of chocolate. Today, Choviva consists of oats and sunflower seeds that undergo the process similar to cocoa processing in chocolate production. Because of the ingredients and the way they are processed, Choviva tastes like chocolate while having up to a 90 percent lower carbon footprint than traditional chocolate.

Munich Startup: And how are you doing financially?

Max Marquart: We currently have sufficient financial resources and, in addition, Choviva sales are above target. We have built up our production in Pilsen and are now running a two-shift operation there.

Munich Startup: What lessons have you learned so far as a founding team?

Sara Marquart: We are siblings and started 2 years ago with a clear mission. We want to make the food supply industry more sustainable and started with cocoa. Even if we don’t always agree, this clear mission helps us to pull together. Our rule is: We want the best solution for Planet A Foods and our mission comes before all other interests.

Munich Startup: What role has the Munich ecosystem played in your journey so far?

Sara Marquart: The Munich ecosystem has played an important role in our journey so far. One of our first and main investors, the World Fund, has managing partners in Munich. Through the Munich ecosystem, we had the opportunity to meet these investors and build an important partnership. In addition, especially at the beginning of our startup, we were able to benefit significantly from the offerings of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Fraunhofer Institute. These institutions offered us valuable resources and support that enabled us to develop prototypes and turn our ideas into reality.

The next steps for Planet A Foods

Munich Startup: What milestones are you working towards next?

Max Marquart: Our current business focus is still on Germany, Austria and Switzerland. By developing products for brands of international importance, we will expand the sales focus as the next big milestone and open up further markets.

Munich Startup: Are there other raw materials besides cocoa for which you are looking for alternatives?

Sara Marquart: Our next big step is to develop fats that are necessary for chocolate production. The fats we produce ourselves can then be used as an alternative to cocoa butter, as they fulfill the same product properties. Cocoa butter alternatives fit very well into our product portfolio and have good profitability per unit when you look at current cocoa prices.