- Voyage Foods, the California-based company that has reverse-engineered chocolate, peanut butter and coffee, closed a $36 million Series A investment round. It was co-led by UBS O'Connor and Level One Fund. Horizons Ventures, SOSV's Indie Bio and Social Impact Capital also participated.
- The funds will help Voyage Foods scale and become a bigger player in what it calls the ethical food market. The company plans a mix of retail and B2B partnerships, with the launch of its peanut-free spread online and in some retailers slated for Q2 and an ingredient partnership with its cacao-free chocolate planned for Q3.
- Voyage Foods is one of a handful of companies using food technology to recreate popular products from other ingredients. Many of Voyage Foods' leaders, including founder and CEO Adam Maxwell and Head of Operations Kelsey Tenney, came from Endless West, a California company that recreates craft alcoholic beverages through a similar process.
While all food products involve science of some sort, Voyage Foods takes it to a deeper level. The company started by researching the most baseline molecules that make up chocolate, peanut butter and coffee. Then it found those molecules in other food sources and combined them with additional ingredients to make finished products that are like the real thing. The ingredient list for Voyage Foods' chocolate includes grape seeds, sunflower seed meal, sugar, shea butter, salt and natural flavors, Maxwell told Food Dive in September.
Voyage Foods has yet to launch any products, but this funding will give it the boost it needs to make the leap from being an R&D company to a CPG and ingredients one. Because the manufacturing process is so unique, Maxwell has said Voyage Foods cannot work with co-packers. The company was building its own factory in California when it emerged from stealth in September.
“At Voyage, we’re future-proofing time-tested favorite foods so that we can enjoy them for years to come without having to worry about their impact on the environment and unjust labor customs that contributed to making them,” Maxwell said in a written statement. “We’re thrilled to be working with dynamic investors who are committed to helping us create delicious versions of traditionally unsustainable food products that won't be limited by climate change, humanitarian concerns, or health issues."
The company addresses some of the most pressing concerns for those consumers who pay the closest attention to their food products. According to a recent Cargill survey, more than half of consumers are more likely to buy products with sustainability label claims.
And about 6.1 million people in the United States are allergic to peanuts, according to Food Allergy Research & Education, with peanut butter often banned in school cafeterias and public eateries. Those who have food allergies or are close to someone who does tend to be extremely wary of products that may contain the nut.
Voyage Foods could be a true game-changer for food ingredients and manufacturing. If the company is able to scale and make key distribution agreements, it could make a dent in traditionally farmed chocolate and coffee. In general, demand for these two commodities is perpetually on the upswing. Chocolate sales in the U.S. alone were worth $21.1 billion in 2021, a 9.2% increase in dollar sales over 2020, according to the National Confectioners Association. And coffee consumption in the U.S. has increased to a two-decade high, according to the National Coffee Association USA. This spring, two-thirds of Americans drank coffee daily, more than any drink but tap water, at a 14% increase over January 2021 coffee-drinking levels.
Additional sources for the treats that consumers love would help meet that growing demand — and would be much needed. Because of poor growing seasons, coffee production is projected to be down this year and consumption is expected to outpace it, the International Coffee Organization found. As long as Voyage Foods can clearly articulate its message and methods, it could also attract consumers based on sustainability and humanitarian factors, achieving one of the company's primary goals.