FF Rising Stars: Sara Marquart, Planet A Foods

By Marco De Novellis // 27 September 2023

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Dr. Sara Marquart, Co-Founder & CTO of Planet A Foods, pitching at Founders Forum 2023

Sara Marquart’s Planet A Foods is making chocolate sustainable with its coca-free alternative, ChoViva. See our FF Rising Stars for 2023!

Sara Marquart’s Planet A Foods produces sustainable ingredients for the food industry, starting with chocolate.

Sara and the team use precision fermentation to produce their future-proof, 100% cocoa-free chocolate alternative, ChoViva, which is 10x more sustainable and 20% cheaper than conventional chocolate.

Planet A Foods was part of Y Combinator’s 2021 batch and has received backing from the likes of Cherry Ventures and World Fund. A food scientist and coffee expert, Sara co-founded Planet A Foods with her brother and CEO, Max.

Founded: 2021
Country: Germany
No. of employees: 35
Investors Include: Cherry Ventures, World Fund, Omnes Capital, Fifty Years, Nucleus Capital, YCombinator

Why did you decide to start Planet A Foods?

We discovered that 70% of the global cocoa supply comes mainly from two countries in West Africa and that cocoa is being produced by deforestation, leading to 19 kg/CO2 per kg of chocolate. 

Large corporations base their entire business models on this fragile cocoa supply chain. That’s when we realised we could solve this problem by offering a more sustainable, supply chain-safe alternative to conventional cocoa and chocolate, which comes at price parity for our clients in the confectionery and chocolate industry. 

What do you want to achieve?

We are a B2B ingredient provider, like Cargill or ADM, and our first goal is to replace chocolate in mass-market confectionaries by 2035. 

We did not start to replace cocoa, but to protect its future for delicious premium applications, like a 70% single-origin cocoa chocolate bar. But we won’t stop with cocoa and chocolate. We’ll also tackle other crops that are produced by the deforestation of our precious rainforests, such as palm oil.

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Scaling up. We are already at thousands of tonnes per year. However, current demand is higher than our supply. So lead times for machinery are a big struggle. 

What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever received?

Best advice:

Max told me in the very beginning that we are building a company and not a startup. And building a company is a marathon, and not a sprint, which is why it is important to look after myself and find a good balance outside of long working hours to stay healthy and fit.

Worst advice:

When we started the company, we heard from various VCs that we should pivot into a D2C business rather than a B2B. Max pushed against it and it proved to be the right decision to stick with our strategy and stay purely B2B. 

D2C/B2C is often too small to make a real impact unless you spend millions on your brand. I mean, how can we save 500 megatonnes of CO2 per annum by selling a D2C chocolate bar?

Discover more of our Rising Stars for 2023!