NotCo is a food tech company that entered the U.S. market in 2020, with NotMilk, a plant-based milk made from cabbage and pineapples, with a little help from its proprietary, patented artificial intelligence (AI) technology known as Giuseppe. Giuseppe matches animal proteins to their ideal replacements, creating a portfolio of products, including NotBurger, NotMeat, NotChicken, NotIceCream and NotMayo. The company has operations in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Colombia. TheNotCompany, Inc., in early 2022 announced a joint venture with the Kraft Heinz Company, known as the Kraft Heinz Not Company LLC, designed to leverage the inherent strengths of both companies. In less than five years NotCo has become the fastest-growing food tech company in Latin America, achieving a valuation of $1.5 billion. In the U.S., NotCo products are available in more than 6,000 grocery stores nationwide.

How is TheNotCompany (NotCo) using technology to address increased demand for plant-based foods, particularly in the cold and frozen categories?

Our mission at NotCo is to create a more sustainable future by removing animals from the food equation—all while creating mind-blowingly delicious tasting plant-based food. Giuseppe, our proprietary, one-of-a-kind, artificial intelligence technology, is the “AI chef” responsible for creating true plant-based alternatives faster, better, and more accurately than anyone else in the industry. By using Generative AI, Giuseppe is able to understand, learn and match products at the molecular level to replicate animal-based products almost to perfection. 

In June, 2022, we secured a set of patents for Giuseppe’s new capability to detect plant-based essences and transform them into a beloved, desired scent. Giuseppe is now the only technology with the ability to create these positive associations through plant-based food and beverages. By understanding taste at the molecular level and interpreting the emotion our brains associate with it, Giuseppe can recreate these experiences through flavor and aroma using only plant-based ingredients.

What are some of the greatest challenges in the development and manufacturing of plant-based foods and how is NotCo helping to solve them?

It all comes down to taste. Getting the flavor just right continues to be one of the most difficult challenges in the plant-based industry. Thanks to Giuseppe and its exceptional learning capabilities, we are able to create mind-blowingly delicious plant-based food that tastes seemingly identical to its animal counterparts—something other plant-based companies just can’t top.  

There has been a lot in the news about AI lately; how is NotCo using AI in food manufacturing? How can it benefit the chilled foods industry?

One of the challenges for formulating products in the chilled and frozen sections is the performance of the product once the consumer reheats or cooks the product at home. This can pose new formulation challenges to R&D teams, but by using Giuseppe, formulators can directly optimize product properties that undergo a chill/freeze and reheat cycle (simulating the consumer experience at home). Giuseppe can learn the nonlinear transformations of a product through a chill/heat cycle and optimize the formula accordingly.

The joint venture with Kraft Heinz aims to develop co-branded plant-based products – can you give R&FF an update on new products/projects?

Following success with the Kraft Heinz Not Company’s recently launched NotMayo and NotCheese products in the U.S., our teams are working together to develop some exciting new plant-based products to be announced. Through our B2B unit, we’re also lending Giuseppe to other CPG brands and ingredient suppliers to help curate their own innovations. 

Earlier this year at Expo West we debuted a few new products in the pipeline including NotChicken Tenders, NotMilk Unsweetened Vanilla, NotMilk HiPro and NotMilk Barista. Tested by baristas, we’re excited to launch NotMilk Barista this summer. The product has the same similarities to cow's milk and foams exceptionally well in both hot and cold coffee drinks, making it perfect for latte art.

In just a few short years you have launched ‘Not’ products across several categories – particularly refrigerated and frozen categories – what’s next for NotCo and where do you see the plant-based category in five years?

We’re planning to continue to create products that won’t require consumers to make sacrifices on the taste and texture of plant-based products. We’re also always looking for ways to develop science and expand the plant-based industry as we know it. You'll see a few fun and delicious launches as we continue to expand. I can't tell you what they are just yet, but I will be sure to circle back once I can. As for the category, we anticipate that health and the environment will continue to be a key priority for consumers when switching to plant-based. We know this is only the beginning of what we as an industry can do and also know it’s about more than NotCo but about the future of the food industry. 

On the technology front, Giuseppe is an exceptional learner, which has enabled us to bring new products to the market much faster than other plant-based companies. Each product development is seeing quicker production time than the previous. For example, it took 18 months to perfect NotMayo and just five months to develop NotMilk Chocolate. At the rate we’re going, the plant-based food possibilities are endless.