Guiseppe deconstructs not just the composition of proteins, but the spectral information, physiochemical composition and sensory experience, and then recreates this experience with plants by crawling through vast datasets to make unexpected connections, the company previously explained to FoodNavigator-USA.
"You’ll see NotCo [be] like a ChatGPT of food ... so a whole business around software as a service, and that's what NotCo can do and what we're aiming to do in 2024. We've been in many conversations with many companies, and we are now going into pilots with many companies out there," Muchnick said.
Creating the ‘ChatGPT of food’ to empower food, beverage development
Like many food startups, NotCo faced a tighter capital market in 2023 and switched focus from growth to profitability, he said. The company was "very clever [in] reacting really fast" to the economic challenges, which included dividing its company to focus on business-to-business (B2B) and CPG opportunities, he pointed out.
“We divided internally the business between B2B and NotCo Foods [the CPG side] ... in 2022, and we kicked it off with a joint venture with Kraft Heinz, and that allowed us to really navigate the path of a tech company purely.”
Since the Kraft Heinz partnership, NotCo announced a similar deal with Mars Wrigley, where it’ll use its AI-based technologies to help the candy maker create new products.
NotCo's AI-based Giuseppe is a platform that has historically been used to match the taste, texture, and smell of animal-based foods by analyzing food and beverages at the molecular level and providing alternative ingredients to create plant-based versions of those products. As it builds out its B2B focus, NotCo will show how the technology can go beyond the plant-based market to address issues in the food and beverage industry.
"The scope of NotCo is not only limited to creating plant-based versions of certain things. [We are] solving problems in the food industry with technology. With our proprietary technology, we have incredible databases, and we're [tackling] many of the problems that the food industry has."
Like other food startups, NotCo has cut costs, which included changing its milk offering from a refrigerated product to an aseptic, shelf-stable one, Muchnick said.
“The refrigerated aisle is very expensive. So, if you don't have enough volume, then you cannot explain the transportation costs, for example, because you don't fill enough trucks for the transportation costs to be low enough to guarantee a good business in the point of sales. So, we made the decision to make [NotMilk] aseptic, and maybe to the surprise of everyone, we're doing great in the aseptic aisle."
NotCo 2.0: Plant-based innovation from hot chicken to snacks
NotCo is working to offset fundraising challenges and slumping plant-based meat sales at the category level by focusing on the value of plant-based products, while building NotCo 2.0, which “is about elevating the experience of whatever you want to eat,” Muchnick said.
“The budget of every consumer is more limited; ... it's a recessive economy,” Muchnick said. “Plant-based is still the Ivy League of food, so we need to be mindful of that, and we need to make sure that if we [make] something that is more expensive than another thing, there is enough value for [consumers]."
Part of ensuring that value is partnering with other companies to deliver unique flavor experiences, he said. Last week, NotCo announced its latest collaboration with hot-sauce brand Yellowbird for a co-branded spicy habanero chicken patty, available at select Whole Foods stores nationwide.
"It's not just another spicy chicken patty. It's a Yellowbird spicy chicken patty with an incredible habanero note sauce, and that brings novelty and right to win in the category. We cannot keep on doing only me-too products ... especially in the US. You need to make sure that there is enough value and reasons why you have a right to win in the category."
While it currently only offers plant-based meats and milks in the US, NotCo is “testing some products in the snacking category” in Latin America and exploring other categories it might want to expand into in the US, Muchnick said. NotCo is also exploring ways to expand into foodservice, building on the relationship it had with Shake Shack, he added.
"We're now in conversations of launching more things together with Shake Shack, and so [foodservice] is still a very, very big category for plant-based companies, specifically in the strategic partnerships side."
Join FoodNavigator-USA’s Futureproofing the Food System Summit to explore the impact AI, digital transformation will have on the industry
During FoodNavigator-USA's upcoming Futureproofing the Food System Summit, taking place on Nov. 14-16, 2023, a panel of thought leaders will discuss the role cutting-edge technology will play in addressing a myriad of food challenges in a session titled, "From Fields to Fermentation: How AI and digital transformation are evolving the food and beverage industry."
In this session, FoodNavigator-USA deputy editor, Deniz Ataman, will moderate a discussion on how technology can improve operations, addressing challenges like ingredient shortages and reformulations, and explore AI's potential for predicting future market opportunities.
She will be joined by:
- Manish Ghosh, corporate VP, industry strategy, consumer industries at Blue Yonder
- Matias Muchnick, co-founder & CEO, NotCo
- Nick Markman, Director of Product Management, Evocalize
- Sofia Elizondo, Co-Founder & COO, Brightseed
To learn more about the virtual summit, visit the event page and register today to secure your seat.