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Chilean AI-driven alternative protein startup NotCo has set its sights on becoming the country’s first to achieve the prestigious “unicorn” status. Speaking in a recent interview, the NotCo CEO Matias Muchnick revealed the goal of topping a US$1 billion valuation in its next financing round, as its sales continue to surge triple-digits in the wake of the global plant-based trend.
NotCo, the leading Latin American food tech backed by the likes of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, intends to become a unicorn after its next funding round, potentially making it the first company in Chile to gain the coveted status. The ambition was revealed in a Bloomberg interview earlier this month, when co-founder and CEO Matias Muchnick pointed to its fourfold sales surge as a good sign that 2021 could be the year for the company to triple its current worth, estimated at over US$250 million after an impressive Series C in the summer last year.
Munchick said that it’ll only be looking to raise more capital this year in order to accelerate its expansion plans, and that “it has to be for a valuation of US$1 billion.”
“We won’t budge from there,” he added.
His comments come shortly after the food tech won a patent for its AI technology, dubbed Giuseppe, which uses machine learning algorithms to find the best plant-based replacements for animal proteins, and is the brains behind NotCo’s range of vegan-friendly milks, mayonnaise, ice cream and burgers and the unique blends of ingredients that features everything from cabbage and pineapple juice to chicory root fibre.
It has to be for a valuation of US$1 billion. We won’t budge from there.Matias Munchick, Co-Founder & CEO, NotCo
Since its founding, the startup has already gained a foothold in a number of international markets, including Brazil, Argentina, Columbia and recently entered the U.S., launching its plant-based milk alternatives at retail giants Walmart and Whole Foods. It’s now eyeing launches in Canada, Mexico and Peru.
Munchick said in the interview that a part of its expansion will also involve collaborations with foodservice players, including Burger King and Papa Johns in Chile, which will further elevate brand awareness and drive up sales, which are already reaching record levels thanks to the mainstreaming of plant-based foods throughout 2020.
The U.S. is the biggest market, and it’s far from saturated. Nor is Mexico or Asia. This is just beginning.Matias Munchick, Co-Founder & CEO, NotCo
If the U.S. market is any indication of the lasting shift we’re likely to see towards animal-free alternatives, a whopping 92% of first-time buyers of plant-based products say they plan on making their newfound purchases a long-term habit. To keep up, NotCo’s CEO plans on growing its current workforce – who are based in Santiago, San Francisco and New York – from 230 to 300 this year.
Ultimately, Munchick believes that there’s still a long way to go for the firm to disrupt the unsustainable meat, dairy and egg market. “We’re still far from a saturation point. The U.S. is the biggest market, and it’s far from saturated. Nor is Mexico or Asia,” he tells Bloomberg.
But there’s signs that things are quickly changing, with sums of capital pouring into the alternative protein sector reaching new all-time highs in the past 12 months, indicating investors’ bullish sentiment of the space. “This is just beginning,” said Munchick.
Some food techs, many of them the early players in the plant-based industry, have already reached unicorn status. The startup behind the “bleeding” heme-filled plant-based patties Impossible Foods, for instance, has seen its value top US$6 billion following its Series F and Series G that totalled US$700 million last year. There’s alternative dairy giant Oatly too, who now has plans to launch an IPO and is targeting a US$10 billion valuation.
All images courtesy of NotCo.