How Stockholm’s foodtech scene is helping people and planet

Stockholm has an exciting gastronomic scene, an impressive range of tech startups and a long-standing reputation as a bastion of sustainable values.

How Stockholm’s foodtech scene is helping people and planet
Photo: Maskot Bildbyrå AB

It’s also one of 14 global cities that signed the C40 Good Food Cities Declaration in 2019, marking a commitment to promote and preserve the health of people and the planet. So when it comes to foodtech, the Swedish capital seems to have all the key ingredients for success. 

There’s no denying, however, that the challenges this field faces globally are huge, as scientists, entrepreneurs and policymakers look to create truly sustainable food systems. The Local explores how Stockholm is contributing to this transformation – and discovers the dairy-free, plant-based cheeses produced in the city (and coming to a shop or restaurant near you!)

The case for plant-based foods

“We’re in the middle of a climate crisis that needs bold action across almost every aspect of society,” says Sorosh Tavakoli. “It turns out that the food industry is a big part of the problem, and hopefully can be a big part of the solution as well.”

Tavakoli is the CEO of Stockeld Dreamery, a Stockholm-based company developing vegan-friendly cheeses. The company launched Stockeld Chunk, an alternative to feta, in May 2021, and has big plans for 2022. These include launching a new cream cheese, recruiting more global talent, moving into a new R&D centre in Stockholm, and opening up in the US.

He previously founded, ran and eventually sold software company Videoplaza, so why is Tavakoli now dedicating himself to the quest for sustainable cheeses that don’t compromise on taste?

“I really love cheese and I wanted to tackle a really difficult problem,” he says, explaining how he spent two years thinking through business ideas that could help to tackle climate change. “The use of animals in our food industry is really resource inefficient. We’re wasting so much energy, land, and water, for producing animal feed to then produce food for humans. If we can use those plants to feed humans straightaway, it will have enormous benefits.”

Food, tech, the arts – Stockholm is a city of innovations, creativity and big thinking. To find out more about living and working in the city, check out these tips from the locals who call it home

Photo: Sorosh Tavakoli, of Stockeld Dreamery, with his co-founder Anja Leissner. Photo: Stockeld Dreamery

Aiming for the stars

The importance of consumer attitudes to food is one of the many factors explored in a new report on Stockholm’s foodtech scene. Sweden is the world leader in terms of the proportion of people classed as LOHAS consumers (that’s people who follow Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability); research shows that 40 percent of the country shops according to these values.

These people care not only about organic and local options, but also about conditions for workers, packaging materials, biodiversity, and more.

“Stockholm is one of the best places to start a food company in the world,” says Carolin Janmark, COO at Stockholm-based Nicoya, an investment company that backs entrepreneurs with ideas for solving the food system’s big challenges. “A large percentage of the population are progressive consumers, they are open to trying new products and services, it’s a great place to test ideas and scale from here.”

The local history of tech companies such as Spotify and Klarna scaling up to global significance also encourages foodtech entrepreneurs in Stockholm to aim for the stars, she believes.

And why wouldn’t they? Sweden Food Arena, set up in 2019, allows companies and other food industry organisations to collaborate on research and innovation. Then there’s the EU project MatLust. Located in Södertälje, half an hour southwest of Stockholm, it aims to establish the area as a regional engine for a sustainable and innovative food system, and offers free support for small and medium-sized businesses looking to grow.

Pulling in international talent

Tavakoli, who was born in Iran, raised in Sweden and has also lived in London and New York, says people have relocated to Stockholm from across the world to work in R&D and product offerings at Stockeld Dreamery. 

“We have people from Argentina, France, Belgium, Italy, Iran, India, Denmark – it’s kind of mind-blowing that they’re all willing to relocate,” he says. So why are they? “It’s because of our mission. Given the funding we have and the things we’re able to work on, it’s a very unique opportunity.”

It also helps that Stockholm is such an attractive place to live and work, he adds. “It’s a dynamic metropolitan city, but it’s set in the midst of this archipelago and also offers something of a green oasis,” he says. “It’s also welcoming to foreigners in terms of people speaking English really well and the ease of all the administrative aspects.”

The company has grown fast since he started it with Anja Leissner in 2019. Stockholm’s “extremely strong investment community” has played a crucial role in this, says Tavakoli (the company has raised more than $24 million to date). So too, he believes, has the mentality he brought from the tech community: “Thinking big, attracting capital, and setting the bar really high.”

In 2022, he expects the company’s number of employees to double to 50, including 15 more people focused on R&D and products. 

A taste of Stockholm’s vision 

Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor of Stockholm, says the city’s vision is to become “one of the most sustainable, creative and innovation-driven gastronomic capitals of the world as well as the best playground for business and science to explore and co-create the next generation food system.” 

Tavakoli is certainly more than doing his part. Still wondering when you’ll find out more about those cheeses? Made from seven ingredients, including pea protein, fava bean protein, coconut oil and potato starch, Stockeld Chunk took more than two years of tasting and tweaking to produce.

Photos: Stockeld Dreamery

Its developers say it goes well with a bowl of salad, as crumbled pieces in a warm meal or on top of a bowl of soup, and it’s available at selected partners in Stockholm (with many more in Sweden and beyond to follow). Customers will also be able to buy products on the company’s website in the New Year, and the next product, a spreadable cream cheese, is set to launch in April.

Making cheese without milk is incredibly hard, says Tavakoli. But like so many big thinkers in Stockholm, the challenge just drives him on. “You can never confirm something is impossible,” he smiles. “You can just know that it hasn’t yet been done.” 

Stockholm is a global tech and startup hub – find out how Invest Stockholm could help connect you to the city’s business ecosystem

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


My Swedish Career: ‘You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed’

After moving from Nigeria to Sweden, Arinze Prosper Emegoakor struggled with adapting to life in Sweden while staying true to his cultural roots. Now he's starting a business with the aim of telling stories about his African culture and identity - through socks.

My Swedish Career: 'You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed'
Photo: Maria Stenström

Arinze had tried living in Sweden before returning in 2011, but it was only on his second stint in the country that he felt able to settle down.

“When I was 20 years old, I travelled to the Netherlands and met my ex-wife there who is Swedish”, he recalls. “I lived in Sweden for a short period, but I couldn't stay. It was too difficult for me to adapt to the environment. But I came back, and since 2011 I have been living here in Malmö.”

After joining a kickboxing-gym in the southern city and going out every night to build a social life, Arinze joined the Pan African Movement for Justice. The organization aims for equality for people of African descent in Sweden, and it was here that he found a purpose in his adopted country.

“I got involved in the Pan African Movement for Justice and became a board member of that organization. That provided me with a strong network of people that motivated and educated me. These people are doing something positive in society. That started my journey in Sweden,” he says.

After moving, Arinze remembers struggling with his identity and finding a balance between staying connected to his roots and adapting to his new environment.

“Being raised in Africa and having lived most of my life in the western world, there was a constant struggle about what I believed in and who I was”, he notes.

“The environment in which I was raised and the Swedish norms are very different in terms of how people express [themselves] and how they see things. I want to be a contributor to this society. I don't want to sit and observe. How do I do that and still keep to my core values? How do I adapt and not attract any unnecessary attention? Being an African man while also being a member of Swedish society was hard at first.”

It was all about finding a comfortable balance, something he now thinks he's achieved: “What I did was accept who I am and who I have become. Through my journeys and my stay in Sweden, I've become a hybrid of culture and identity.”

“I cannot completely behave or act like I was in Africa because of the culture and norms in Sweden. But I still have my original values. I mixed my values with the norms of Swedish society. That is the balance.”

During his childhood in Nigeria, Arinze spent a lot of time with his grandmother, who he credits with introducing him to the power of storytelling.

“I found that the people don't usually say 'do not steal' or 'do not lie', but people tell you stories”, he says. “In this story, the thief will get what he deserves. There's a powerful message there. Through storytelling, you take up these values automatically.”

His roots in the Nigerian Igbo culture inspired Arinze to start his own sustainable bamboo sock company called Akụko. And he has put the power of storytelling at the core of the company.

Through the colourful collection of socks, he hopes to start conversations and tell the story of his culture.

“Through storytelling, movement and style esthetics, we make people curious to find out more”, he says. “The design of my first collection is inspired by a musical instrument called ogene, which is a kind of gong. In my village, it is used to call for meetings. When people want to call for a meeting they tell the town crier, and he will go around to play the ogene to gather people.”

Akụko isn't the first business Arinze has started. He learned valuable lessons after starting up an entertainment company for Afrobeat music in 2014.

“We had shows in Malmö and Stockholm. It was fun, but we failed financially”, he says. “I started to wonder: why did we fail? I found that the Swedish people aren't easily impressed, especially when you're an outsider. You have to be humble and connect to them. Win the heart of the people, connect with the society and community around your brand. Go for value and the money will come.”

Arinze hopes that his work on his second business, and its roots in his native culture, will inspire more people of African descent to follow their goals and dreams. “

If they want to start their own business they should go for it”, he says.

“They need to see more people who are like them doing positive things. We can inspire the next generation to do so, be role models. I have documented the blueprint of my journey, and I'm ready to share it with anyone that needs tips about how to crowdfund or how to start up a business. People can always contact me for support on how to realize your their goals in Sweden.”