Swedish startup Stockeld Dreamery has raised €16.5 million ($19.5 million) in Series A funding to advance its alternative cheese business.
Food- and ag-focused VC Astanor Ventures and early-stage investor Northzone led the round, which also included participation from Gullspång Re:food, Eurazeo, Norrsken VC, Edastra, Trellis Road, as well as angel investors David Frenkiel of Green Kitchen Stories and Alexander Ljung.
The Series A round follows Stockeld Dreamery’s €3.25 million ($2.42 million) seed round in January 2020.
Originally known as Noquo Foods, Stockeld Dreamery was founded in 2019 by tech entrepreneur Sorosh Tavakoli and food scientist Anja Leissner.
The Stockholm-based startup makes alt-cheese products via a fermentation process that uses pea and fava bean protein. Its first offering, a feta-like product called Stockeld Chunk, hit store shelves in Sweden in May 2021. At the time, Tavakoli told AFN that the product was nutritionally close to feta cheese and included 13% protein and about 20% fat.
He added that Stockeld Dreamery’s goal was to create a cheese that, in comparison to its animal-derived counterpart, would be “tastier and more nutritious, something that is preferred by top chefs and restaurants, a cheese that’s very resource efficient, constantly using less and less.”
Few companies, if any, have yet to achieve this with plant-based cheeses, which tend to be heavily processed and oftentimes taste nothing like the real deal.
But Stockeld is among a new wave of companies now using various technological tricks to change people’s perceptions around plant-based cheese. Others to have raised funding recently include the US’s Nobell Foods, which bagged $75 million from investors including AgFunder, Andreessen Horowitz, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures last month [disclosure: AgFunder is AFN‘s parent company]; while fellow Californian outfit Miyoko’s Creamery scored $52 million at around the same time in its PowerPlant Partners-led Series C round.
These big-ticket fundings suggests the food industry is finally starting to take the space seriously, as attested to by Astanor Ventures co-founder Eric Archambeau.
“Recreating a cheese experience without the unique and complex animal-based proteins and fats is an incredibly difficult challenge,” he told AFN.
“Through the [Stockeld Dreamery] team’s commitment to R&D, traceability, quality and nutrition, they have risen to that challenge and created a technology that breaks the mould of what was previously possible in plant-based cheese.”
The new funding will go towards a number of different initiatives at Stockeld, according to Daniel Skavén Ruben, the startup’s head of strategy and special projects.
“We’re doing a lot of things at once,” he told AFN. “Those include product development and R&D, recruiting more staff, moving into a new headquarters, and opening a pilot production facility in Stockholm, which is slated for operation by 2022. Raising this round means we can accelerate things a little bit.”
Stockeld also plans to expand in terms of both geography and the number of products it offers.
Stockeld Chunk is currently only available in Sweden, though the rest of Europe as well as North America are geographical priorities for the company.
The startup also plans to launch new products, including a ‘melting cheese’ for dishes like pizza and a spreadable product akin to cream cheese. Ruben declined to give an exact timeline but said consumers can expect these things “in the fairly near future.”
How Stockeld Dreamery is making ‘the world’s most ambitious cheese’ – listen to the podcast here
As to whether all future products will use the same fermentation method as Stockeld Chunk, Ruben said that the company is “open to exploring different ways” to produce different cheeses – with the method that can produce the best-tasting cheese at the best price ultimately winning out.
The environmental impact of producing cheese gets less airtime than meat or milk right now. But Ruben points out that producing 2 pounds of cow’s cheese requires about 2.5 gallons of milk in addition to all the resources required to raise the livestock, which produce 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions globally, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Ruben is quick to note that Stockeld Dreamery doesn’t want to be seen as an enemy of the traditional cheese industry. Instead, the company is more interested in exploring other, potentially untapped methods for cheese without needing animals.
“We’re not against cheese or cows or farmers, we just think there should be a better way to deliver those experiences people crave and want,” he said.