Chilean start-up that uses AI to reinvent food eyes U.S. deals

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A Chilean start-up that has built artificial intelligence software to help recreate animal-based foods using plants is looking toward U.S. multinationals after signing deals at home to sell its products, the company’s founders said.

NotCo, founded around a year ago by three Chileans, has already persuaded Cencosud’s Jumbo supermarkets to stock its ‘Not Mayo’ across Chile, and has signed a deal to supply a national food manufacturer with one of its products, said Chief Executive Matias Muchnick.

The company has also spoken to multinationals including Hershey, Coca-Cola, and Mars about creating new versions of chocolate and soda.

“We want to promote these products as mainstream. It will only have an impact if meat-eaters who don’t care about sustainability buy them,” said Muchnick, adding that they can be retailed at the same price as the non-vegan version.

NotCo’s software, called ‘Giuseppe’, breaks down foods into their basic molecular compositions, and then, employing machine- based learning, chooses vegetables that it can combine to imitate that structure, while also working with humans to learn what tastes good.

The result with ‘Not Mayo’ is a mayonnaise with a taste and texture uncannily like the standard version, only made from ingredients that include basil, peas, potatoes, and canola oil instead of eggs and vegetable oil.

Plant-based milk, yoghurt, pate and cheese products are also in the pipeline, says NotCo, the latest example of a growing trend for innovative technology-based start-ups in the South American country.

“We are a tech company, not a food company. We want to capitalize ourselves by developing products for other companies,” said Muchnick.

Reporting by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Alan Crosby