Building a Sustainable Cocoa Supply Chain: The Mills Fabrica Invests in Nukoko

Kit Tomlinson, Founder and Co-CEO (left), Prof. David Salt, Founder and Chief Science Officer (middle), and Ross Newton, Founder and Co-CEO of Nukoko (right)

Follow us on Instagram

(March 22, 2024) The Mills Fabrica is proud to announce our investment into Nukoko – a UK-based startup producing cocoa-free chocolates using fermentation technology.

Founded in 2022 by exited chocolate entrepreneurs Ross Newton and Kit Tomlinson alongside cocoa research scientist Professor David Salt, Nukoko has developed a fermentation process to recreate chocolate flavors using ingredients outside of the cocoa bean, most notably the fava bean.

Challenges in the Cocoa Supply Chain: Rising Prices and Sustainability Concerns

Whether as a key ingredient in chocolate or as a common flavor in drinks, bakery, and snacks, cocoa remains a staple with increasing global demand. However, cocoa prices have risen to all-time highs – as much as doubling within 2024 alone1 – mainly driven by yield losses from climate change in key producing regions. The push to produce has led to significant deforestation for new land to grow cocoa trees, increasing the emissions impact of cocoa production. On the other hand, consumers scrutiny around child labor issues and socio-environmental concerns around cocoa farmers’ livelihoods have increased. The chocolate industry must therefore turn to alternative feedstocks and technologies to shift the burden away from the pressured supply chain.

A Promising Solution: Cocoa-Free Chocolate from Fava Beans

Nukoko’s cocoa-free products are built on a proprietary fermentation platform that develops key chocolate flavor compounds from the fava bean – an abundant and cost-effective raw material typically grown in temperate regions, including locally in the UK. Fava is also a nitrogen-fixing plant commonly used as a rotational crop in agriculture, enabling better soil health and reducing the need for fertilizer. As such, we see Nukoko becoming a key cocoa-free ingredients provider, selling to F&B manufacturers operating in the growing chocolate market.

Since graduating from leading biotech accelerator SOSV IndieBio in New York, Nukoko has successfully secured agreements with two subsidiaries of the Coop Group – a retail, wholesale, and manufacturing cooperative operating over 2,400 sales outlets in Switzerland. Through this partnership Nukoko can leverage the Coop Group’s brands and R&D capabilities to codevelop products across multiple grocery categories, including chocolate, confectionery, bakery, and more. We are excited to see products formulated with Nukoko’s ingredients launching in European supermarkets soon.

Our Commitment to Support Sustainable Agrifood Technologies

The Mills Fabrica is excited to welcome Nukoko into its growing portfolio of agrifood innovations to change the way we eat in a more sustainable and equitable way. We aim to capitalize on this investment opportunity to promote further awareness around the wide range of issues challenging our chocolate supply chain. In the coming weeks, we will be publishing an in-depth series on cocoa, and why there is an urgent need for disruption. Please stay tuned to our various social media channels for further details.

Nukoko has successfully closed this US$1.5M seed round with a strong base of food and deep technology investors, including The Mills Fabrica, SOSV, and Oyster Bay Venture Capital alongside an Innovate UK grant. Funds raised will help Nukoko further accelerate its technology and scale-up its process to create industrial scale impact. We are delighted to be a part of Nukoko’s journey and look forward to supporting its growth in the years to come.

1 Bloomberg,, 19 March, 2024.