Get ready for the chocolate of the future: An interview with Dr. Maximilian Marquart, Co-Founder and CEO of Planet A Foods - Part II

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Welcome back to the second part of our interview with Dr. Maximilian Marquart, Co-founder and CEO of Planet A Foods.

As a small recap: In the first part, we discussed why we need an alternative to conventional chocolate, the technology Planet A uses, their current range of products and how price competitive Planet A Foods is.

In this part, we focus on how their go-to-market approach will reach end consumers but also tackle B2B partners, which parts of the company are growing, what talents they are currently recruiting, how interested B2B partners can get into contact and most importantly where and how you can try their cacao-free chocolate products!

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    Photo: Planet A Foods

Let’s talk a about your go-to-market strategy. From my understanding, your products are all B2B ingredients and me as the end consumer will find your Nocoa as an ingredient on the label of my favorite chocolate chip cookie. What is your go-to-market approach with Planet A Foods?

Correct. In the in the future, our aim is to produce our Nocoa for B2B applications and we're already well on our way to do that for quarter 3 to 4 next year where the first huge product is going to launch with our Nocoa inside. This is our main path, but if you introduce something new to the market, people tend to be critical especially with new food innovations. Our approach is to convince people with taste. I can tell you a lot about sustainability and costs, but people will just buy it if they're convinced that it tastes as good as conventional chocolate. My focus is getting out as much product to the end consumer as possible. That's why we aim to reach a six digit number of consumers until summer next year. We want to execute this go-to-market strategy with our B2B partners like food services, transportation catering but also with lifestyle brands and influencers that share our mission. For example, in August, you have the chance to attend our launch event in Munich where we collaborate with an ice cream parlor. There are more events with food service partners planned along the year for example in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Paris, Zurich and likely in London. I am particularly proud that we are working with fun partners in Zurich and get to introduce our product to the home of chocolate. We are also thinking about introducing our own product D2C via our web page end of the year, but that is still under discussion. So overall, it is our goal to reach as many consumers as possible via B2B partnerships.

Interesting two-sided go-to-market strategy. You just recently rebranded to Planet A Foods. Can you tell us more about why you rebranded and what brands the business and end consumers will see?

We are Planet A Foods. Why? There's no planet B. We only have one planet, the earth, and if we destroy the earth, we are facing severe problems as inhabitants of that beautiful planet. We really want to help to sustain our planet A and that's why we called ourselves Planet A Foods. A second reason for rebranding is that, as I said, we are not just tackling cocoa and cocoa butter but also other fat derivatives. Planet A Foods is our umbrella brand to tackle all the different ingredients that are bad for the planet. In addition, we introduced a new brand called Nocoa focusing on the chocolate business which will be visible to consumers. For example, if we introduce our first product, it will be in the form of Nocoa as an ingredient on the packaging label of our partners. This construct of our umbrella brand, Planet A Foods, and our product brands such as Nocoa is important to understand.

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    Photo: Planet A Foods

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    Photo: Planet A Foods

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    Photo: Planet A Foods

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    Photo: Planet A Foods


Ok now I am all hyped up to try your Nocoa! Do you have a specific geographical focus to enter the market?

When we started the company, we were thinking about tackling Germany and the USA, but we realized that we need to reach a decent amount of people to really to tell our story and have certain impact. A bit like a small fan base. Additionally, people in Europe and especially in Germany care a lot about sustainability and deforestation. So, we reconsidered and now we will mainly focus on Germany as our first market. As I said, we will still have certain pop-up events with partners around Europe.

Great to see that we in Germany get to try it first! As Europe is rather strict with regulations, do you face any regulatory challenges with your product?

We have a version one and a version two of our product. We are currently introducing our version one which is completely compliant to the market regulatory situation. There are certain regulatory hurdles for our fats from the fermenter, but we're quite confident that we can tackle them very soon.

Good to hear because that's also one of the major pitfalls in the European landscape for food tech startups. Let's chat about the future. What is your next step and what do you need to make that happen?

Our big next step is to grow from a startup to a serious ingredient supplier. To do this, we need a solid operations department handling everything from procurement, to supply chain management, to production, to quality management and logistics. In that area, we will be heavily growing in the next months. In addition, we are currently hiring marketing experts such as a CMO. We would like some support with our go-to-market approach, all these launch events and reaching the right new partners while sharpening and spreading our message. So, if anybody out there with a solid knowledge of operations or marketing wants to talk about opportunities, just reach out! We are happy to get your applications. Another growth area is finding new food service partners that are willing to test and pioneer our material. For the summer, we are now working with ice cream parlors as I said. In autumn and winter, we will switch to other products. We are flexible regarding the area of application of our products, and I am really happy to any partnership proposal and happy to send samples out to anyone who's interested. Just reach out to us via mail!

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Is there anything you wish you'd see more from the community, your partners, or the industry in general?

That is a good question. We mentioned it already but regulatory is always a big hurdle. Sometimes I have the feeling that we build a food system that is very secure for the established players and very prohibitive for small players. I would wish that in the future and with our green government, we can create an environment that is more startup friendly. My second wish is about capital. Building production facilities for is way more capital intensive than for example doing software solutions. Our next scale up step after what we're building now will be a facility that is 180 meters long. If we want to transform our food system, we need capital access. There are already some great funds to help us with innovations like this, but in the end, capital will always be a constraint in hardware intensive businesses like ours. We are well financed at Planet A Foods and have enough capital to sustain our business but thinking about scaling up in three to five years from now also means we might need additional funding.

Well spoken! Of course you need additional money to scale up. That’s it from my side. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Again, I just would like to invite everyone that reads this interview to come to one of our pop-up events. I'm really in love with the product. It's tastes really amazing and I want everybody to experience that!

I can see your eyes sparkle with enthusiasm! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and share your story. As I love chocolate, I am hooked and cannot wait to try it!

If you want to try Planet A Foods' chocolate, mark your calendar:

Eismeer, Munich: 5-Aug / 6-Aug
Delabuu Ice Cream, Berlin, Friedrichshain: 19-Aug / 20-Aug
Oktoberfest/ Bits & Pretzels, Munich: 25-Sep / 27-Sep
Chocstar, Amsterdam: 4-Nov / 5-Nov

The NX-Food visual branding and website are developed by dombek—bolay and Naasner Office, in close collaboration with the NX-Food team.