Who will be the next Willy Wonka in the alt-chocolate sector? Interview with FOREVERLAND

Who will be the next Willy Wonka in the alt-chocolate sector? Interview with FOREVERLAND

The third position paper from Grey Silo Ventures will be published soon, and this time it will be dedicated to a food loved by both adults and children practically all over the world: chocolate!

While waiting to find out who the new Willy Wonkas will be, we exchanged some opinions with several founders to understand why so many innovative startups are leading the charge by introducing alternative innovative solutions to traditional cocoa.

Among them is Foreverland Food one of  the companies that has been under the spotlight many times recently, the last one after it was announced as one of the finalists of the Hack and Givaudan challenge organized in sight of the HackSummit in June 2024.  

The Italian-based company, created by energetic, complementary founders Massimo, Riccardo and Giuseppe in early 2023, is active in the alternative chocolate space, their core product being a semi-finished ingredient that leverages carob, a forgotten ingredient and resembles milk chocolate in taste and texture, but boasts a better nutritional profile (less added refined sugars), and a more sustainable and price-competitive production process when compared to conventional chocolate..  

We caught up with Giuseppe D’Alessandro, CMO of the company, to gain his insights on the industry and how Foreverland is moving up the ranks in this ever-evolving space.  

Q: “Starting from the basis, can you help us understand what drove you as a team to build an alternative to chocolate and why is important to sensibilize the public on the problems of chocolate?” 

“Chocolate, one of the world’s most beloved treats, often conceals a darker side to its production. The cocoa industry is responsible for almost half of deforestation in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the sources of two-thirds of the world’s cocoa. Additionally, over 1.5 million children are exploited in its harvesting. Furthermore, chocolate ranks as the top water-intensive ingredient, requiring approximately 24,000 liters of water per kilogram, while contributing significantly to carbon emissions, ranking second among CO2 emitters, primarily due to logistics and land exploitation. Traditional chocolate also faces two economic challenges: a price increase of +300% compared to last year and the potential disappearance of 90% of plantations in Ghana and Ivory Coast by 2050 due to climate change. We do not know what will happen with the climate crisis and what the price trend will be, but sustainability is and will be a problem not easily solved in the cocoa supply chain, and these are the reasons why we absolutely need to think about alternatives to chocolate. 

Q: “So what is the product portfolio that you are building at Foreverland?” 

“Our product portfolio is continuously expanding and evolving, starting with our Freecao, the chocolate alternative made from carob. We have developed the “vegan milk” version with four different applications and over ten unique recipes. We are now working on dark, white, and powdered versions, each with their own distinct applications. Additionally, our catalogue is growing to include other strategic products such as allergen-free hazelnut and peanut spreads, along with several other products currently in development.” 

Q: “What is Foreverland’s key technology and production process?” 

“Foreverland utilizes cutting-edge food technologies, including roasting, fermentation, and biocatalysts, to unlock the rich flavor potential of carob, creating an ingredient that closely mimics the smell and taste of cacao. By blending Foreverland carob with other “forgotten ingredients,” we then craft a unique cocoa-free chocolate that offers a delightful and sustainable alternative to traditional chocolate.” 

Q: “It seems like demand is really knocking at your doors. Do you produce in house or via third parties?” 

“We currently produce our semi-finished products through various co-packers but in September we open our plant in Puglia with a production capacity of 1000 tons”. 

Q: “What are the key advantages of your products compared to conventional chocolate? 

“Freecao” is the chocolate alternative made from Italian carob – delicious, future-proof, and sustainable, not just for the planet but also economically. Freecao is super sustainable, with 90% less water and 80% less CO2, completely allergen-free, less sugar, low nickel chocolate alternative made from Italian carob, no artificial ingredients, and health benefits like low glycaemic index and high in fiber. Freecao is also free of theobromine and caffeine, making it more digestible and suitable for a broader audience. 

Q: “This seems like a completely new product category, which leverages the powers of carob to make a new class of ingredients. How do you see that when compared to chocolate?” 

“We envision a future where fair-trade cocoa and alt-choc coexist to create a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable chocolate industry, both for consumers and farmers. Currently, carob pods are primarily used as animal feed and fertilizer, limiting their commercial appeal. However, with proprietary treatment methods like the one we apply, carob is gaining added value, offering a new business opportunity for local Mediterranean farmers who previously did not consider it a viable source of income. This shift can alleviate also the financial strain on African cocoa farmers by reducing dependence on mass-market cocoa, allowing them to focus on producing high-quality cocoa at fair prices. 

Q: “That leads me to the final question: which is your personal outlook on the future of the industry?”. 

“The world is changing due to the unstoppable climate crisis, a continuously growing global population, and the rapid expansion of new markets like those in Asia. Consequently, it is essential for the food industry, including the chocolate sector, to adapt and evolve by developing more sustainable products sourced from different, more responsible origins than those currently in use”.  


Stay tuned for the imminent publication of Grey Silo Ventures next position paper: SWEET INNOVATORS PAVING THE WAY FOR THE WILLY WONKAS OF THE FUTURE!

About us

Grey Silo Ventures is the Corporate VC arm of Cereal Docks Group. With an international focus, we invest in innovative foodtech startups that want to be part of the food technology revolution.