The nu company was founded by three engineering students at a university in Germany who have just launched their vegan, organic brand of chocolate in Sainsbury’s. They wanted to create a sweet snack that is good for you and the planet.
The company wants to transform the way people eat and bring sustainable change to the food industry. They plant a tree for every nucao bar sold, now nearly 11 million trees. We asked them what makes their chocolate a guilt-free pleasure.
What’s different about your nucao chocolate?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: What is different about nucao is that it’s 100% organic, vegan, made from ethically-sourced ingredients and comes in plastic-free packaging. It’s chocolate with a conscience; that’s what makes us different. We’re the only chocolate brand in the UK that plants one tree for every bar sold!
Like all vegan chocolate, our bars taste slightly different to regular chocolate but the feedback has been great! nucao is a great, healthy and ethical alternative to chocolate – and every bit as tasty. It’s made with cocoa beans and cocoa mass and our nucao ‘L!KE MILK’ is creamy chocolate as you remember it, but with a clear conscience.
We offer a flavour to suit all tastes – from crunchy nougat and raspberry crisp nucao white, almond sea salt, creamy noisette and crisp and crunch – all available in Sainsbury’s.
Why now and why vegan?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: We’ve been about since 2016 when we launched in Germany. We gained our first UK supermarket listing in Sainsbury’s early this year, which we are very excited about.
We are vegans ourselves – and feel great for it. That said, you don’t have to be following a plant-based diet to enjoy nucao. More and more people are adopting a more ethically-aware diet.
We want to know where our food comes from, what its carbon footprint is and if the workers in the food chain were paid fairly.
The vegan food sector is one of the fastest-growing areas of the food industry right now – and for good reason. Eating a more plant-based diet is better for our planet.
You met at university, didn’t you?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: Yes, we did. The three of us (Mathias, Christian and Thomas) were all studying engineering together. We were in the library one day and wanted a snack, but all we could find was junk food.
Not long after, we bought a DIY chocolate making kit and practised around the kitchen table, cooking up different recipes which satisfied our need for vegan, organic, ethically sourced and healthier than regular chocolate.
Between us, we suffered from some health issues growing up and turning to a plant-based diet helped us overcome them.
Which is your favourite flavour?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: That is a tricky one, as we love them all, but our biggest seller is our raspberry crisp white choc. By law, white chocolate has to contain a certain percentage of milk solids and as ours contain none, we can’t legally call it white chocolate. If you haven’t tried it, please do. I hope you’ll be very pleasantly surprised that we’ve managed to create creamy chocolate with no dairy products at all! For us, it’s a game-changer!
What’s it like working with friends and do you ever fall out?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: We are all working towards one common goal, which is a great motivator for us and the nu company as a whole. We have been friends for several years and of course, we don’t agree on everything 100% of the time (we are only human) – but disagreements are few and far between and we prefer to call them debates! Show me three friends who agree with each other all of the time anyway!
Is the environment something you feel passionately about?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: It is vital to us. It is our mission to make every beep at the checkout a signal for a healthier and greener world. We believe that consumption can and should have a positive impact on the planet. What’s more, we’ll be publishing our Impact Report soon, where customers can do a deep dive into what we are doing as a company and what we want to accomplish. It includes everything, from production to our reforestation project, and even the sourcing of our cacao beans.
Since the company’s inception, we have always committed to improving packaging options. Our packaging is 100% plastic-free, made from home compostable cellulose film, a thin cover of starch blend and paper. Our wrappers can also be placed in home composting bins and we hope, in the future, organic waste bins, but the existing UK infrastructure won’t permit this. Where you don’t have home composting, you can dispose of the packaging in general waste, where it will be burnt. In this process, it leaves a tiny bit of carbon but no toxic gases, so it’s still a better variant than regular packaging.
We are also part of the Circular Packaging Initiative – a collective of five companies ensuring more transparency about the disposal of compostable packaging and its potential. Since cellulose has the best degradation properties compared to other biodegradable plastics, including PLA, we have identified cellulose film as the best alternative to conventional plastic for us at the moment. Because our packaging is biobased as well as home compostable, it was certified with the ‘plastic-free standard’ by ‘a plastic planet.’
All the cocoa beans and cocoa mass that we buy comes from the Apanosan farmers’ cooperative in Satipo, a region in Peru. Our single-origin cocoa is not mixed with cocoa beans from other regions. We go out of our way to make sure the farmers receive a good price; 30% more for their cocoa beans than the global average price.
Planting trees is important to us. That’s why, for every bar sold, we will plant a tree in partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects.
We’re chocolate with a conscience. Eden works with local communities in various countries to plant forests on a large scale, creating local jobs and protecting ecosystems. In doing so, we make a major contribution to mitigating climate change. So, if you ever needed an excuse to buy chocolate there it is.
You have an ambitious tree-planting target. Do you think you’ll hit it?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: We are well on our way to achieving it already. It certainly is an ambitious target; we know that. But we don’t do anything by halves at the nu company and wanted to challenge ourselves and set a significant target to strive for.
We’ve almost planted 11 million trees to date (if you check out our website you can see the tree counter going up every day) and yes, we are confident we will hit our target.
You seem like a very caring company. How does that manifest within the company itself?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: We operate under a holacratic company model. In its purest form, it is an organisation run with a totally flat structure, with decentralised management and organisational governance. We form distinct, autonomous teams to accomplish tasks and company goals. Simply put, you take full control and ownership of your area of responsibility and how you deliver.
We put the wellbeing of our people at the forefront of our company philosophy. At our head office in Germany, the team is served a vegan, organic lunch every day and we also provide yoga and mindfulness classes.
We do things together too. Every year we get out and plant trees and play our part in our reforestation initiative. These principles and benefits will all be part of our UK office, which we are currently on the lookout for.
What’s next for the nu company and can we expect to see your chocolate bars in more supermarkets?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: We were delighted to get our first supermarket listing in Sainsbury’s and we are currently focusing on making that a huge success, whilst continuing to increase sales in Holland & Barrett and Planet Organic and on our website. We hope to achieve more listings as the brand grows its presence in the UK
Coupled with that, we are committed to our reforestation targets, working closely with our tree planting partner. As a relatively young company, our key focus will be on supporting the success of nucao, our chocolate bars, and from there we’ll see. There’s a lot more just around the corner!
Can we expect a vegan chocolate brand to be the next Hotel Chocolat one day?
Mathias, Thomas and Christian: Everyone has to start somewhere and with the demand for vegan products as it is – and the UK leading that market globally– we predict a growing demand for dairy-free throughout the world. The sky’s the limit!
Follow the nu company on Instagram at @the.nu.company.uk for regular updates on their nucao products and much more!