Voyage Foods, a California-based startup that has reverse-engineered chocolate, peanut butter and coffee, recently closed a $36 million Series A investment round, bringing the company’s total funding to $41.8 million. Co-led by UBS O’Connor and Level One Fund, the latest funds will help Voyage Foods scale up and become a bigger player in what it calls the ethical food market.
The company is one of a handful of food tech startups using science to recreate popular products from other ingredients. Voyage Foods started by researching the main molecules that make up chocolate, peanut butter and coffee. It then found those molecules in other food sources and combined them with additional ingredients to make finished products that are comparable to the real thing.
The ingredient list for Voyage Foods’ chocolate, which contains no cocoa, includes grape seeds, sunflower seed meal, sugar, shea butter, salt and natural flavors. Its peanut-free peanut butter contains sunflower seeds, chickpeas, grapeseed, buckwheat and wild rice. Voyage Foods’ coffee is made entirely without coffee beans, while still giving drinkers the boost they need.
All Voyage Foods’ products are ethically manufactured and free from all nine major allergens. And while the company has yet to launch any products, they are intended to propel the startup from a food tech to a consumer-packaged goods (CPG) player within the ethical food sector. The first commercial product, slated for release in the second quarter of this year, is the peanut-free spread.
The company is addressing some of the most pressing concerns for consumers who pay the closest attention to their food products, with more than half of consumers more likely to buy products with sustainability label claims. Not to mention, about 6.1 million people in the US are allergic to peanuts, with peanut butter often banned in school cafeterias and public eateries.
Meanwhile, the production of chocolate and coffee are both infamous for their human rights transgressions and environmental impacts. Coffee prices have been rising in recent years largely due to climate change and unstable weather patterns. And, cacao production utilizes problematic cultivation practices in the form of child and slave labor.
The unethical conditions that Voyage Foods is looking to remove from the food system are widespread, which is why it hopes to become a top competitor in the ethical food market. The global market for ethical food is projected to grow to $727.86 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8 percent as consumers demand more accountability from popular brands.
Voyage Foods’ latest funding will give it the boost it needs to make the leap from being an R&D company to a CPG and ingredients brand. It plans a mix of retail and business-to-business (B2B) partnerships, with the launch of its peanut-free spread online and in some retailers followed by its cocoa-free chocolate planned for the third quarter of this year.
“Voyage’s ability to deliver true 1:1 replacements for some of the world’s most important food products is a feat unmatched by most food tech companies,” said Kevin Russell, chief investment officer of UBS O’Connor, in a press release. “Compared to incumbent products this is done at a superior cost and with a significantly reduced environmental impact, and has the potential to transform the food system in a way that benefits all stakeholders.”