Kraft Heinz And Plant-Based Unicorn NotCo Joins Forces To Develop a Global Plant-Based AI Portfolio
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AI-powered unicorn food tech NotCo has announced a major partnership with food giant Kraft Heinz to innovate animal-free foods. The joint venture has resulted in a new entity called Kraft Heinz Not Company with the aim of serving a growing consumer base looking for healthy and sustainable foods.
NotCo, a unicorn startup from Chile, has secured more than $350 million in investment since its inception. US-founded Kraft Heinz owns numerous brands that are household names globally with $26 billion in net sales in 2021.
Together, Kraft Heinz and NotCo have created a new joint venture, kept entirely separate from their respective companies. It will leverage the market expertise and distribution channels of the former and the AI technology, innovation, and vision of the latter. The new company aims to bring a product to market this year, though no firm details have been shared. Given Kraft’s dairy legacy, there is hope for a new vegan cheese that satisfies even the hardest to please dairy fans.
A meeting of minds
Kraft Heinz is keen to develop an increasingly diverse range of products and sees NotCo as its route into the burgeoning plant-based sector. “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.,” Miguel Patricio, Kraft Heinz CEO said in a statement. “It helps deliver on our vision to offer more clean, green, and delicious products for consumers. We believe the technology that NotCo brings is revolutionising the creation of delicious plant-based foods with simpler ingredients.”
NotCo’s most recent funding round was completed in July 2021. The celebrity-filled Series D saw leading athletes Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer back the startup, amongst many others and totalled $235 million, which NotCo said it would allocated towards international expansion and tech scaling.
Kraft Heinz Not Company says it intends to operate globally from inception. A spokesperson commented that more details would hopefully follow soon, including proposed roll-out plans.
The joint venture will be headquartered in Chicago, with R&D facilities in San Francisco and developments will begin with plant-based options for existing product categories in the Kraft Heinz portfolio. NotCo’s in-house AI system, affectionately known as Giuseppe, will be charged with uncovering new plant-based formulations. So far, it has mastered a range of dairy items, chicken and beef for NotCo.
Manifestation of a dream
For Matias Muchnick, partnering with Kraft Heinz represents more than just a promising commercial move.
“Changing the world is, ultimately, every founder’s dream… but boy it’s [fucking] hard to change the world, isn’t it?” Muchnick wrote on LinkedIn. “Today that dream is closer than ever before and I feel truly fortunate by it [sic]. For NotCo this is not only the biggest milestone in our relatively short existence but I think the biggest chance of achieving REAL CHANGE at a scale not yet seen before: for our world, for us, for animals, and most importantly, for our future generations and is [sic] this particular element that genuinely took us to partner up with The Kraft Heinz Company.”
NotCo’s ultimate company mission is to replace all animal-based foods entirely. In addition, it seeks to create alternatives that can help reverse the damage already caused by the production of conventional items. Gaining access to new consumers via Kraft Heinz’s multiple product platforms could be the key to making the mission a reality.
News of the new venture follows an announcement last month from NotCo that it would be looking to replicate salmon and tuna soon. This will come alongside Asian expansion and a potential IPO listing.
Big names making moves
It was reported in October last year that almost 30 percent of the world’s largest food retailers are looking to get involved in the alternative protein sector. Conagra, Nestlé and Tesco were all named. Now, even bigger names seem to be looking for a slice of the action.
It was recently revealed that Unilever has conducted in-house research and determined that plant-based diets are the healthiest option. Citing the removal of meat as beneficial for human and planetary health, the conglomerate has surprised consumers by releasing the data, given that many of its brands are animal-based.
Over in India, one of the country’s largest enterprises, ITC, has made its intentions to move into plant-based meats apparent. Working alongside GFI India, the company is using consumer data as a driving motivator to develop meat-free items. Nutrition expert Kerry previously unveiled findings that support the move, citing India as a key global driver for plant-based and flexitarian foods.
Lead photo by the Kraft Heinz Not Company.