The chocolate company planting millions of trees

The Nu Company is a German food startup with a powerful social mission. The team is dedicated to helping create a healthier planet by developing plant-based products, eliminating plastic packaging, and planting trees in Madagascar.

Now it’s known as the chocolate company planting trees by the million, but, like many startups, The Nu Company’s inaugural product – the Nucao chocolate bar – was crafted in the kitchen of a shared apartment. In 2016, Christian Fenner, Thomas Stoffels, and Mathias Tholey were all preparing to pursue lucrative careers in engineering. That is – until a different calling stopped them in their tracks.

The trio had begun to question the lack of exciting, healthy snacks available on the market, and to think in more depth about the impact of nutrition on the wellbeing of people and the planet. At around that same time, Mathias received a do-it-yourself chocolate kit as a gift.

Passionate about healthy food, he came up with the idea of including hemp seeds in the mixture. In doing so, Mathias managed to avoid adding so much sugar, and thus the base recipe for Nucao was born.

Three journeys, one path

In the coming months, the team continued to tinker with their creations in their shared kitchen and gradually build what would become The Nu Company.

Mathias and Thomas both became interested in the topic of nutrition after dealing with personal health concerns. This led them to a project that they were more passionate about than anything that they had worked on before. Christian meanwhile, had become disillusioned with his engineering job at an automotive group and was driven to join the pair in pursuing a career that, for him, had a real purpose.

“Everyone can find meaning in the professional world if they regularly question what they are doing and why,” says Christian. “The Nu Company doesn’t exist simply to make money. We want to have an impact and play a role in moving towards a healthier and greener world.”

Rethinking food

For the Nu Company, the future of food is natural and plant-based. The team is passionate about producing quality products that people enjoy but that are also good for the planet. That’s why, as well as being plant-based, the chocolate bars come in plastic-free, home-compostable wrappers.

Christian says that the packing “almost drove them crazy and into bankruptcy”. “The process resulted in grey hairs, for sure”, he says.“However, we could not accept compostable packaging as an unrealistic or overambitious goal.”

The Nu Company took its first product, the Nucao chocolate bar, to market in 2017. When the ProVeg Incubator launched in 2018, the startup was accepted as part of the very first cohort to join the accelerator programme.

Since then, the chocolate company has expanded significantly. The team has already smashed the one-million sales mark, with their bars available in more than 16 countries across Europe and Asia, including China, Japan, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands.

Mangrove tree planting in Madagascar, photo credit: Eden Reforestation Project

One treat = one tree

In 2018, the Nu Company adopted the ‘one product, one tree’ principle. This means, that for every chocolate bar sold, they plant a tree. “We believe that to simply protect the environment is no longer enough,” says Christian. “In order to really combat climate change, we need to actively support nature in its regeneration.”

The chocolate company is planting trees together with the Eden Reforestation Project, a global NGO that reduces poverty and restores the health of forests by hiring local villagers to plant trees. Together, the Nu Company and the Eden Reforestation Project have planted over one million Mangrove trees in Madagascar.

This type of tree can bind four times more CO2 than other species. This means that it makes a significant contribution in the fight against climate change, thereby protecting 200,000 other plant and animal species that are indigenous to Madagascar.

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