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Consumer choice bolstered as ethical cacao-free chocolate hits market in world first

London-based food tech startup, WNWN Food Labs, has made a huge leap in sustainable and ethical food production with the release of the first cacao-free chocolate for sale to consumers.

In less than a year since the company’s $1 million pre-seed funding, WNWN (pronounced ‘win-win’) has rapidly developed its proprietary process to transform sustainable, plant-based ingredients using technology and traditional fermentation techniques into a cacao-free product that tastes, melts, snaps and even bakes like the original.

The limited edition  release of  boxes of WNWN’s chocolate thins marks significant progression in the world of alt-food production, with the UK company being the first in the world to bring a cacao-free product to market. Providing more choice to ethically minded, flavour-focused consumers, WNWN’s creation is not only cacao-free, but vegan, caffeine-free, gluten-free, palm oil-free and lower in sugar than comparable products.

Ahrum Pak, co-founder and CEO of WNWN, says: “At WNWN, we love food – we’re not anti-chocolate. We want to offer consumers that all-important choice when choosing a chocolate product; a choice that does not support the unethical and unsustainable practices baked into most mainstream chocolate production.”

Large-scale chocolate production has a darker side: more than 1.5 million child labourers are estimated to be working in cacao production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The farming of cacao is also contributing to widespread deforestation in West Africa, with Cote d’Ivoire losing an estimated 94% of its forest cover in the last 60 years – driven in part by traditional chocolate production. Chocolate production also emits more CO2 per kg than chicken or pork, and requires more than 24,000L of water per 1kg of chocolate.

The UK’s Environment Act (2021) requires better environmental standards for commodities produced in rainforest areas, but fails to cover cocoa.

Dr Johnny Drain, co-founder and CTO of WNWN, further explains:  “With an absence of meaningful UK regulation, now and for the foreseeable future, we’re opening up the space for British chocolate consumers to buy ethically – essentially taking matters into their own hands.”

WNWN’s first product – using ingredients including British barley, carob and organic shea butter – is a cacao-free chocolate with notes of sticky toffee pudding, dates, cherries, and a rich, buttery finish. In blind taste tests alongside cacao-based chocolate, the products were described by consumers as ‘very similar’.

“Using fermentation we’re able to create a suite of similar flavour compounds found in cacao. We can dial up certain flavours and even adjust the acidity to bring out notes found in premium single-origin chocolates,” Drain adds.

Working to future-proof the world’s favourite foods from climate change and compelling the monopolies producing them to limit biodiversity loss, pay fairer wages and support better working conditions, WNWN also plans to explore the development of other alt-foods including coffee, tea and vanilla, which each have supply chains mired in unethical and unsustainable practices.

A limited-release box of dark chocolate thins will be available to purchase from 18 May exclusively on the WNWN website. Each box sells for £10 GB, on par with premium chocolates.

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A limited release of WNWN cacao-free chocolate thins will be available to buy from 18 May

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About WNWN Food Labs (WNWN) WNWN Food Labs is on a mission to create more sustainable, flavour-identical versions of the world’s favourite foods. They transform nutritious, whole ingredients like seeds and cereals and unloved food streams into high-value products. For more information visit Dr. Johnny Drain, Co-founder & CTO Having earned a PhD in Materials Science from the University of Oxford, Drain has become a global expert on fermentation, sustainability and food design. His clients and collaborators have included the Nordic Food Lab (set up by Rene Redzepi’s Noma), Mirazur (3*), Alchemist (2*), Diageo and Pernod Ricard. He is the director of fermentation for Douglas McMaster’s zero-waste restaurant Silo, where he pioneered innovative techniques to turn food waste and by-products into delicious things to eat and drink. Drain had toyed with the idea of cacao-free chocolate for around five years, using ingredients commonly available and techniques rooted in traditional fermentation. Ahrum Pak, Co-founder & CEO Born in Hawaii, and raised in the US to a Korean family, Pak is a former investment banker (Morgan Stanley) and management consultant. After working in the US, Europe and Asia, bringing healthcare IPOs to life and advising insurtech projects, she decided to shift focus to topics closer to her heart. This led her to found WNWN Food Labs (which stands for Waste Not, Want Not) with Drain in 2020, to challenge current food systems by developing sustainable and ethical alternatives to unsustainable and unethical foods, using fermentation and whole plant ingredients. Follow WNWN LinkedIn: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: Sign up for news about product releases:

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