Planet A Foods, formerly QOA, is a Germany-based start-up that makes cocoa-free chocolate using “precision fermentation” of other ingredients. This process is intended to replace cocoa butter and mimic chocolate's organoleptic properties—the tender, smooth melting taste release of chocolate products. Over the next decade, the company hopes to fully replace the cocoa used in mass-market products. The company states its chocolate product could be ten times more sustainable and 20 percent cheaper than conventional chocolate.
The company was founded as QOA in 2021 and rebranded as Planet A Foods in 2022 to represent its commitment to help save the Earth and its natural diversity—what the company calls "Planet A." The company was founded with the following reasons in mind:
- to help the cocoa supply, which is at risk due to pathogens, climate change, and consumption
- to reduce the deforestation driven by cocoa harvesting
- to create a supply chain of a cocoa alternative that is free of the concerns of child labor and slave labor found in the cocoa supply chain
Planet A Foods participated in the Y Combinator accelerator program in 2021 and created a test kit of nine flavor options.
Planet A Foods was founded by scientists and siblings Dr. Sara Marquart and Dr. Maximilian Marquart. Dr. Sara Marquart is a food chemist with over ten years of field experience and with a specialization in flavor formation. And Dr. Maximilian Marquart is a material scientist who has previously founded two companies and has helped start-ups sell solutions to corporations.
Planet A Foods is working on two cocoa-free ingredients: a cocoa powder substitute and a cocoa butter substitute. Mixing these two ingredients creates the cocoa-free chocolate.
Nocoa is Planet Foods' first completely cocoa-free chocolate product, a cocoa substitute that is vegan and made from natural ingredients. The company has said Nocoa maintains the mouthfeel, taste, aroma, and texture associated with cocoa and does not have the problems associated with harvesting the cocoa bean.
Nocoa is made from Planet A Foods cocoa concentrate alternative, which is developed from the conversion of side streams and ingredients grown in Germany and related areas into higher valued ingredients. The prominent ingredient in the cocoa powder substitute is oats, fermented and roasted to convert the oats into something that tastes like cocoa.
Similarly, Planet A Foods is working on a cocoa butter alternative, using precision fermentation that enables microorganisms to create complex organic molecules. For example, this process can take molasses from sugar beets fed to an oleaginous yeast strain to produce a cocoa butter equivalent. Mixing the cocoa powder and cocoa butter alternatives can produce cocoa-free chocolate, with Planet A Foods working on dark and white chocolate alternatives.
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