Perfecting A Sustainable Cocoa-Free Chocolate

Cocoa-Free Chocolate Tabletop Voyage Foods
A chocolate lover’s dream spread, all cocoa-free courtesy of Voyage Foods

Interview with Adam Maxwell, CEO & Co-Founder, Voyage Foods

Voyage Foods is addressing – head on – the alarming reality of chocolate’s dark side and has created the most sustainable chocolate to ever come to market as it uses 99% less blue water consumption and up to 84% less greenhouse gas emissions than the typical chocolate bar.

The company’s unique and differentiating strength lies in its proprietary technology used to combine upcycled seeds and fruits to create a delicious, clean label, plant-based cocoa-free chocolate at a price point accessible to the mass market.

Total Food Service sought out Adam Maxwell, CEO & Co-Founder Voyage Foods, to share his vision for the company and the benefits of a cocoa-free chocolate industry.

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How did you become interested in developing foods that address sustainability concerns? What aspect(s) of your background prepared you for this venture?

Adam Maxwell CEO Voyage Foods
Adam Maxwell, CEO & Co-Founder, Voyage Foods

Many of our favorite foods – chocolate, peanut butter, coffee – are ubiquitous and that we often take for granted, face challenges and uncertain future because of climate change, ethical, and social issues.

They will continue to become more expensive and less readily available for a large swath of the population.

Global food production continues to place strain on diverse growers and population growth, consumer demand and climate change will only serve to exacerbate those problems.

The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the fragility of our food systems when it completely upended supply chains and forced consumers to start paying greater attention to how the products they consume are made and where they are sourced from.

With my background in and passion for food science with extensive previous work in restaurant kitchens and as Head of Product Development at food companies like Endless West, I began to grasp the existential threat to our food systems and saw an urgent opportunity to transform them for the better at an affordable price point.

At Voyage Foods, we believe that everyone deserves to enjoy their favorite foods without compromising on taste or worrying about their future availability.

Tell our readers how you became interested in cocoa-free chocolate and how Voyage Foods got its start. Why did you select chocolate as opposed to another food/crop?

Voyage Foods was founded in 2021 out of a deep desire to harness the power of technology and food science to ensure the future of our favorite foods, while creating more sustainable and ethically produced products that taste delicious and are accessible to all at a price points.

We are focused on addressing the environmentally and socially harmful aspects of the incumbent chocolate industry and creating more sustainable, scalable, delicious counterparts.

Whether you are looking at water use, land use, greenhouse gas emissions or labor exploitation, the production of traditional chocolate is deeply problematic.

Voyage Foods makes a cocoa-free mile and semi-sweet chocolate that offers a 1:1 substitute to conventional chocolate in both flavor and texture.

In January we published a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) that reveals that our cocoa-free chocolate is dramatically more sustainable than traditional chocolate.

A third-party validated report from Sphera, the ESG consulting firm, showed that our cocoa-free ‘milk’ and semi-sweet chocolate are far more sustainable thank traditional chocolate – moreover at a price point that enables accessible sustainability for all consumers.

Voyage Foods’ cocoa-free ‘milk’ chocolate (which is entirely dairy-free) was compared to traditional milk chocolate, showcasing groundbreaking results across both traditional and alternative chocolate makers.

Using Voyage Foods’ cocoa-free chocolate rather than traditional chocolate significantly reduces the environmental impact of the blue water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and the consequences of harmful land use.

How do you deploy the latest in food technology, science and natural upcycled ingredients to reimagine our favorite foods into more environmentally sustainable, ethical, and safer counterparts?

At Voyage, we use a combination of proprietary technology and natural, sustainably sourced plant-based ingredients to reimagine our favorite foods into ones that both taste better and are better for our environment.

Starting with upcycled grape seeds and sunflower flour, Voyage employs roasting and processing techniques inspired by traditional chocolate-making coupled with its innovative technology to recreate the world’s most popular sweet efficiently and sustainably – while free from the threats of the incumbent chocolate industry such as deforestation and unjust labor practices.

Moreover, we avoid integrating ingredients that are vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions. We use real ingredients that are reliably less expensive to source, readily scalable, and widely available.

As a result, Voyage is able to deliver high-quality, great tasting products to market at a mass-market price point from launch.

For our CPG partners, they can confidently integrate Voyage Foods’ cocoa-free chocolate into their consumer product and provide their customers with a delicious, environmentally beneficial experience at fair and stable pricing.

Who is your target audience/demographic? Are your products intended for consumers with specific dietary needs or preferences?

Our cocoa-free chocolate is intended for food service and B2B customers. Working towards a future where competitively priced production and sustainable planetary health can (and must) co-exist, our goal is to partner exclusively with B2B customers and integrate cocoa-free chocolate into their product portfolios.

Since our inception three years ago, Voyage Foods has commercialized and scaled our operations with offerings in ‘milk,’ semi-sweet, and dark cocoa-free chocolate, offering a counterpart while empowering manufacturers to bypass the chocolate industry’s vulnerability to ever rising costs, supply chain instability and problematic environmental issues.

We are also setting a new standard in allergen-friendly category. Our Peanut-Free Spread and Hazelnut-Free Spreads are available across our retail, food service, and B2B channels.

Both are plant-based and free of the top nine allergens making them to enjoy for 85 million+ Americans who are affected by food allergies.

What aspects of Voyage Foods’ products and brand mission do you believe will resonate with B2B clients who would integrate Voyage ingredients (e.g., cocoa-free chocolate) into their consumer facing products. In other words, why would they pivot from conventional chocolate to Voyage Foods cocoa-free chocolate?

Voyage is offering a no-compromise solution that enables food companies to use more sustainable and ethically sourced products at a cost that, on the industrial side, is significantly less than current alternatives.

Voyage Foods provides manufacturing partners with supply chain and price stability that provide significantly better margins.

In 2023, the price of bulk cocoa rose to its highest levels in nearly five decades due to significant shortages and increased consumer demand. As the worldwide cocoa supply gap is expected to increase, this will result in even higher prices.

Sustainable products are also stable products that address the needs of manufacturers who are typically at the whim of commodity price fluctuations.

We’re in conversations with many big CPGs to partner together and create either a new product entirely or to swap some of their existing products to become more sustainable, affordable, and tasty.

What we hear most often is that our partners are excited to use a cocoa-free chocolate that comes with stable pricing, allowing them to more reliably budget and plan.

We’re all people living in a world where we see the effects of climate change and, now more than ever, consumers are voting with their dollars for products that impact the environment more positively. Voyage Foods aligns with their values.

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  • Imperial Dade
  • Atosa USA
  • Red Gold Sacramento
  • Cuisine Solutions
  • DAVO by Avalara
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Joyce Appelman
Joyce Appelman is the SCOOP News Editor and Senior Contributing Writer for Total Food Service and previously the National Communications Director for C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program. An industry leader supporting education and scholarships, she has been instrumental in opening career opportunities for many young people in the foodservice industry. Email her at joyceappelman@gmail.com

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