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.”

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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

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Opinion: Low-paid jobs for foreigners aren’t the solution to an unequal labour market

A scheme aiming to give more foreigners a 'fast-track' into the Swedish job market is more problematic than it seems, and ignores many of the issues non-Swedes face on the job market, writes The Local reader Princess Jimenez in this opinion piece.

Opinion: Low-paid jobs for foreigners aren't the solution to an unequal labour market
The 'etableringsjobb' would see newcomers offered a job and training, for a lower than average salary. File photo: Moa Karlberg/

Starting this summer, the government of Sweden is implementing a new policy, the so-called etableringsjobb or 'establishment job'.

Under this policy, a new low-income category will be created for newly arrived immigrants (as well as for long-term unemployed people), who will receive substantially reduced salaries, the lowest allowed by the collective agreements, as a means of getting them “established in the workforce”. This plan is supported by unions, employers' organizations and the Swedish government.

It’s being sold as a way of helping newcomers get a foothold in the Swedish job market, receiving training and experience while their salaries are partly subsidized by the state. However, no matter how it is presented, it does not stop this scheme from been problematic. In fact, one could say that it’s straightforwardly racist. Why? Because using laws, structures and institutions to discriminate against groups of people based on their origin is racist.

This scheme is tailored with very elaborate language to make it look positive, but it hides questionable practices.

Newly-arrived people will participate in the programme regardless of education, experience, training, or language skills. They are often going to be paid less than a Swede for doing similar work, and employers may take advantage of the scheme, turning jobs that would otherwise be fully paid into lower-waged ones, and create a new category of underpaid jobs where membership is based on ethnicity. The lowest level allowed by collective agreements will be almost always thousands of kronor less than the salary a Swede would receive for the same work.


These are the most future-proof jobs for the next five years in Sweden
Photo: Berit Roald/NTB/TT

By giving discrimination a legal and legitimizing platform, the government is helping to normalize treating immigrants as if they are worth less in Swedish society. 

It is worth considering whether this policy contravenes the Swedish constitution and EU law. According to chapter 2, paragraph 12 of the Swedish constitution, no law or other directive is allowed to put someone at a disadvantage because the person is part of a minority in terms of ethnic origin, skin color, or other similar condition. In the EU, anti-discrimination laws clearly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin.

The main reason why many foreigners, and indeed many non-white Swedes, have a hard time finding jobs in Sweden is discrimination.

HAVE YOUR SAY: How good is Sweden for international talent?

Minorities in Sweden, especially black people, already make less money than white Swedes. In 2018 a report on discrimination in the Swedish labour market by the Centre of Multidisciplinary Studies of Racism and Uppsala University found that black people in Sweden make less money than their white counterparts. Researchers also found black workers are more likely to be unemployed for longer periods of time regardless of their education, receive lower average salaries than white people with similar jobs and qualifications, and tend to be in jobs for which they are overqualified.

Six out of ten unemployed people in Sweden come from non-European countries, which means that in addition to recent arrivals, immigrants will make up the majority of the long-term unemployed group that will also be part of the etableringsjobb scheme.


Pushing minorities to the outskirts of society has proven to not only hurt those minorities affected by institutionalized racism, but also the rest of society.

It creates segregation, poverty, it normalizes aggressive forms of racism, and it creates distrusts in institutions. In a 2018 survey from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Sweden ranked 8th of countries with the highest perceived racist violence against people of African descent in Europe.

A survey commissioned by The Living History Forum in 2017 showed that almost half of Swedes said they think racism will grow in the coming year. The policy of etableringsjobb is just part of a trend whereby racism is normalized. What Sweden needs is to go the extreme opposite direction; to create civil rights institutions which will use legal and institutional frameworks to protect minorities from discrimination, instead of using taxpayers’ money to sponsor unfair policies.

From the centuries-long bigoted state-sponsored violence against the Samis, Jewish, Finnish, Roma people and Travellers, to the participation of Sweden in the colonization of Congo, the creation of eugenics institutions, and the open and shameless discrimination of black Swedes and immigrants in the Swedish job market; the history of racism in Sweden is long and complex.

But we cannot allow Sweden to go back to a discourse where we think it is acceptable to even consider paying lower salaries to a group based on their origin. Racism affects us all, it weakens institutions and our society’s ability of coexistence, and we all must work together and be vigilant in order to stop structural racism in our nation.

Princess Jimenez moved to Stockholm, Sweden in 2018 and has a Special Education degree. Some of her interests are social sciences, politics, drag queens, memes, and heavy metal. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Photo: Private