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AI-driven alternative protein startup NotCo has received funding from Enlightened Hospitality Investments(EHI), the growth equity fund that includes U.S. burger restaurant Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer, and they will use the capital will be used to ramp up its expansion efforts across the the U.S. foodservice market as well as operations in other countries.
Backed by big names like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and leading investors Future Positive and L Catterton, the Chilean food tech NotCo is Latin America’s leading food tech company and has now attracted U.S. restauranteur Danny Meyer as a backer.
Meyer is the well-known founder of Shake Shack and the Union Square Hospitality Group that is associated with the growth equity fund EIH that invests in hospitality, technology and consumer industries, marking the fund’s first investment in a food tech company that employs AI to create plant-based products that claim to be similar to its animal-based counterparts.
Founded in 2015 by Matias Muchnick, Pablo Zamora and Karim Pichara, NotCo uses its patented AI technology, known as Giuseppe, which lends the plant-based offerings a similar taste and texture to that of animal-based foods, in order to create sustainable alternatives to environmentally problematic ones.
Though NotCo did not disclose the exact amount of the investment, the company did secure a higher valuation as compared to its previous round. To date, it has raised a total of US$130 million and is on track to reach a US$1 billion valuation by the end of 2021, which would make NotCo Chile’s first unicorn.
NotCo will use this capital to fuel its growth in the U.S. and Canada, as well as other as yet unnamed global markets, and support new category innovation in Latin America.
NotCo’s founder and CEO, Matias Muchnick said that EHI’s experience and network, alongside Meyer’s guidance, will help accelerate the company’s expansion into the U.S. foodservice, along with existing QSR partnerships in Latin America including Burger King and Papa John’s.
Speaking about the news, Muchnick said: “Our goal is to accelerate rapid advancement of science driven plant-based alternatives that consumers will readily adopt, and EHI’s and Danny’s vast industry expertise will help solidify mainstream validation of our technology, especially within food service. We’re excited to partner with them in this next phase of NotCo’s U.S. and global expansion and multi-category innovation.”
Our goal is to accelerate rapid advancement of science driven plant-based alternatives that consumers will readily adopt, and EHI’s and Danny’s vast industry expertise will help solidify mainstream validation of our technology, especially within food serviceMatias Muchnick, founder and CEO, NotCo
Operating in five countries including Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia with a four-product range that includes NotMilk, NotBurger, NotIceCream and NotMayo, NotCo managed to secure over 3,000 retail stores for its chicory and cabbage-based NotMilk launch in the U.S., and despite the pandemic, the company recorded 4x sales growth in 2020. Going forward, it plans to triple its income.
NotCo was recently crowned one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2021 and apart from the above-mentioned backers, Kaszek Ventures, The Craftory, General Catalyst, Endeavor Catalyst, Indie Bio, Humbolt Capital and Maya Capital have also invested in the company.
Meyer is bullish on the company’s tech stack, saying that the AI had opened up a revolutionary way to bring plant-based food innovations to consumers in no time. “The potential is so vast that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be involved. We’re excited to join this young company at a critical point in its growth to become an essential food provider in the U.S. and global markets.”
“Consumers have been wired to believe that plant-based alternatives must result in an experiential sacrifice – be that in taste, texture, or ability to incorporate them seamlessly into their favorite recipes. Giuseppe eliminates the need for consumers to make that trade-off, because NotCo products taste and function just like animal-based options,” concluded Muchnick.
Lead image – founder and CEO of NotCo, Matias Muchnick, with CEO and founder of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), Danny Meyer, courtesy of NotCo.