I don’t want to live a world where coffee and chocolate don’t exist. First off, I love all of these things dearly. Secondly, I imagine if the supply of these precious items runs out, this will lead to utter chaos amongst self-proclaimed coffee and chocolate “addicts.” Unfortunately, climate change threatens the ability to continue to produce these crops to the extent that they are produced today. However, a company called Voyage Foods wants to “future-proof” these foods by creating sustainable alternatives that taste exactly like coffee and chocolate and peanut butter.
To understand how exactly Voyage Foods is doing this, I spoke with the CEO and founder of the company, Adam Maxwell. Founded about a year ago, Voyage Foods focuses on foods that pose environmental, ethical or health issues. Maxwell explained that there are already many companies making vegan products in response to a demand for sustainable products, and said “There is a tunnel vision kind of focus on really where we should put effort in the food system.” So many other parts of the food system are being ignored, and this is why Voyage Foods landed on coffee, cacao, and peanut butter.
The massive global demand for coffee and cacao has led to some negative consequences like illegal deforestation, child labor, and increased water usage. The land available for growing these crops (which can only be grown in certain regions) is shrinking. “The production of these things is going to go down and down,” Maxell said. “The world’s consumption is projected to go up, so part of it’s how can we archive these things for the future?”
While there aren’t necessarily environmental concerns associated with peanut butter, it has other problems; approximately 1 percent of the population in the U.S., or about 3 million people, are allergic to peanuts.
Voyage Foods sent The Spoon a sample of its bean-free coffee and cacao-free milk chocolate bar. I first took a swig of the coffee, and it tasted like a smooth cold brew coffee. It also had unique tasting notes that I had never tasted in coffee, leaving a slight smokey mesquite flavor in the back of my throat (for me, this was a good thing). I appreciated that the coffee had no acidity and thoroughly enjoyed it poured over ice with a splash of oat milk. Maxwell could not disclose what ingredients were in the alternative coffee but did say it still contained caffeine.
The milk chocolate bar was fully vegan and made from a base of grape seeds, shea butter, sunflower meal, and a few other ingredients. It certainly tasted like chocolate and reminded me of the milk candy bars I would eat as a child, like a Hershey’s bar. I am someone who typically only eats dark chocolate, but was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and was sad when it was all gone.
When asked about how Voyage Foods makes all of its products, Maxwell responded with “A lot of our process and our technology is, how do we manipulate different feedstocks into the same outputs? How do you roast something that is not a cocoa bean, to make it taste like cocoa?”. Voyage Foods starts with whole food ingredients, like sunflower meal or grape seeds, and manipulates them in a certain way to achieve flavors found in the products they are trying to mimic. Maxwell also said the company’s facilities look similar to existing chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter production facilities.
Although I did not get to try it, Voyage Foods’ peanut butter product is made from various grains and seeds. This product is slated to be the first to launch and available for consumers to purchase in early 2022. The chocolate will likely launch in mid-2022. I would love to get my hands on more of Voyage Foods’ coffee, but we will all, unfortunately, have to likely wait until 2023 for this product.