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

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

How can we recreate the unmistakable and beloved taste of chocolate without using cocoa? This is the ultimate question that Grey Silo Ventures’ upcoming third Position Paper, “Sweet Innovators Paving the Way for the Willy Wonkas of the Future,” aims to answer.

In anticipation of its release, we are excited to introduce three of the pioneering wizards in the alt-chocolate world. With their innovative Chocolate Factories, they are developing sustainable alternatives to traditional cocoa to overcome economic, social, and environmental challenges and might soon find themselves managing their own teams of Oompa-Loompas

Staying in the UK, Nukoko is yet another company that has found a way to leverage a local, sustainable and widely spread crop such as Fava to create their own version of an alternative to chocolate. We first met with the team during our visit to London on the occasion of Future Foodtech 2023, where we met with Ross Newton and Kit Tomlison,  CO-CEOs and co-founders. 

The pair had known each other and have been working together for a multitude of years, since their foundation of a chocolate company and brand, Mighty Fine Honeycomb, which they sold in 2022 to a conventional chocolate manufacturer. They are supported by David Salt on the technical side. We caught up with Ross to better understand how they operate.   

Q: “Your experience in founding a chocolate brand led you to start yet another chocolate (alternative company) What is the reason why you started Nukoko?” 

“Cocoa farmers are being increasingly affected by climate change, we are on the back of a 3-year supply deficit, and this means cocoa prices have been increasing rapidly by over 200%. Currently cocoa prices are at record highs and with climate modelling showing this will only get worse. Even at current pricing levels this has huge impact on manufacturers ability to maintain their current business models, and means the consumer will face increasing prices, smaller products, and a general reduction in quality. On top of this the chocolate we do eat has a massive negative environmental impact with high CO2 emissions and increasing levels of deforestation, exasperated by climate change.”  

Q: “You’re focus is to fight these problems with your own category of products. What is the product portfolio that you are building at Nukoko? 

“We started out with some first consumer products such as Nukoko-covered pralines just to get validation, but our end goal is to sell our Nukoko powders and other semi-finished products such as chocolate to food manufacturers who can include them into their formulations”.   

Q: “What is the secret ingredient that make Nukoko’s products so similar to chocolate?” 

“We source local fava beans from farms in UK and EU, then apply our fermentation process, which is similar to the fermentation process we see used on cocoa farms, that transforms the humble fava bean into this cocoa bean like product”. 

Q: “Do you produce in house or via third parties?  

“Currently we produce in-house but are exploring third party options as we grow.” 

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

“We can offer taste, sustainability, value and stability as an alternative to conventional cocoa. Fava is a hugely abundant cheap crop across the world, that is sustainable sourced and robust”. 

Q: “Which technology will be best suited to help with the current cocoa crisis: proprietary treatments on other crops or mimicking chocolate via e.g. plant cell culture? Do you think that the two of them can co-exist?” 

“I think it all comes down to taste, sustainability, scale and price. Whatever option you are looking at it needs to deliver on these core principles to be a viable alternative”. 

Q: “What is your personal outlook on the future of the industry?” 

“We have worked in the chocolate industry for over 10 years, and it is fair to say we have not seen such uncertainty as we are seeing now. We have owned chocolate brands ourselves and I feel the pain of current brands who face huge difficulties in the face of these issues in the cocoa supply chain. It is the reason we started Nukoko in the first place, we saw a few years ago the oncoming problems and set out to create a solution that we as chocolate lovers could potentially use and sell to others. There will be a great deal of transition over the coming years, where alternatives such as Nukoko are utilised, but I hope that we can go some way to maintaining the chocolate industry that we love for the future”.  

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.