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The Not Company: Food tech unicorn in the alternative protein race

NotCo is a Chilean food-tech company that produces plant-based dairy and meat substitutes. It uses artificial intelligence to make plant-based food that looks, smells, functions, and tastes the same as animal-based. It became an industry pioneer in using its proprietary AI technology to match animal protein at the molecular level to plant-based counterparts. NotCo designs its AI through an interdisciplinary team that combines machine learning with the works of software engineers, food scientists, and chefs. Its special algorithm, Giuseppe, which was patented in 2021, utilizes lists of plant ingredients to find the ideal combinations to recreate specific food attributes.

The company was created with the belief that the food industry is obsolete, and the use of artificial intelligence is one of the keys to unveiling a whole new world of possibilities and create a vast array of products that are just as delicious, but better for the environment. In less than three years it has become the largest and fastest-growing food-tech company in Latin America.

Since its inception, NotCo has become the only global company to successfully launch food products disrupting massive food and beverage segments, including dairy, eggs, and meat. As of 2021, NotCo mostly operates in Latin America, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. Its NotMeat product is being used across Chile, supplying both Burger King and Papa John’s pizzerias’ vegan options. Its NotMilk products are also being retailed in the US at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Wegmans amongst others. It has reached national distribution within only two months of its launch at Whole Foods Market and the company expects to close 2021 being present in more than 8,000 retailer stores. The company plans to further expand into Mexico, Peru and Canada. It is also eying Europe and Asia and talks about going public in 2023.

In June 2021, NotCo reached unicorn status, with $235m raised that gives it a total of $1.5bn valuation. Its investors include Tiger Global, Bezos Expeditions, Enlightened Hospitality Investments, Future Positive, L Catterton, Kaszek Ventures, SOSV, Endeavour Catalyst DFJ Growth Fund, ZOMA Lab; athletes Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer; and musician and DJ Questlove.

Concerns about the environmental impacts of meat has fueled a boom in the popularity of protein-rich products made from plants, especially faux burgers and imitation milk. Investors have showered money on the alternative protein sector in recent years and several “unicorns” have already emerged. Globally, NotCo is competing with companies such as Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Oatly.

Time will show if NotCo can deliver on investors’ expectations in the food industry, which has always been logistically difficult to consistently win at.