The Kraft Heinz Not Company will operate under the control of Kraft Heinz and will be based in Chicago with R&D facilities in San Francisco. It will be led by Lucho Lopez-May, currently CEO, North America of NotCo.
The plan is to combine Santiago-based NotCo’s patented technology and expertise in plant-based formulation, with Kraft Heinz’s iconic brand portfolio and scale, “to develop superior plant-based versions of co-branded products at a level of speed, taste, quality, and scale yet to be seen in the industry.”
“We believe the technology that NotCo brings is revolutionizing the creation of delicious plant-based foods with simpler ingredients,” said Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio. “The joint venture with TheNotCompany is a critical step in the transformation of our product portfolio and a tremendous addition to our brand design-to-value capabilities.”
“When we started NotCo, it was our goal to make our technology a catalyzer for a more sustainable food system not only for us, but for other brands and manufacturers who share the same ambition,” said NotCo co-founder and CEO Matias Muchnick.
Reverse engineering animal products
NotCo entered the US market in November 2020 with NotMilk, which presents itself as a straight milk replacement, rather than an alternative that sets up different taste expectations (oatmilk, almondmilk), and is planning on introducing more products shortly.
“NotMilk became one of the fastest growing items in the category in the natural channel very early on,” Muchnick told FoodNavigator-USA last fall. “And Starbucks has just adopted our products [Starbucks recently began offering NotMilk, NotMeat, and NotMayo in its outlets in Chile].”
NotCo – which has raised $350m to date - was recently granted a first-of-its kind US patent for its AI technology (‘Giuseppe’), which it claims gives it an edge in the race to reverse engineer animal foods and put them back together - molecule by molecule - with plants, creating next-generation meat, egg, and dairy alternatives.
“Our approach has always been, there's no way we're going to mimic something if we first don't understand it, right?” said Muchnick.
“Then the question is, do we have the diversity of plants to [replicate] milk in terms of the sensory experience, the functionality of the protein – will it foam and blend with coffee? - the bioavailability of the nutrition – how are these ingredients metabolized?”
‘NotCo is becoming kind of like a data company more than a CPG company’
To those that suggest every foodtech startup now adds 'machine learning' to its pitch deck to secure a tech valuation for what is basically a food company, Muchnick insisted that Giuseppe's capabilities go way beyond flavor pairing.
So while NotMilk, for example, features pineapple and cabbage (two ingredients you wouldn’t expect to see in a plant-based milk, but which Giuseppe identified as a combination that would generate lactones, aroma compounds found in dairy products), Giuseppe is also tasked with finding ingredients and processes that deliver technical properties from gelling and foaming to emulsification.
“NotCo is becoming kind of like a data company more than a CPG company,” claimed Muchnick. “We have been working on this for the last six years, so we have collected a lot of data that is allowing us to understand food at a different level, create products faster, better, more accurate, and less costly than anyone else in the space.”
More to follow…