“Tasting is believing” — NotCo cofounder Matías Muchnick
We eat amazing things and every time someone asks how it was? We would generally reply with how it tasted, this isn’t surprising, also our eating habits are majorly dependent on how visually appealing it looks and how good something tastes but think about it again, do visual appearances matter so much? We all have drunk dairy milk once in our lifetime and still many of us don’t like it(including me). I mean just look at it, how boring it is and it tastes kind of meh to me, on the other hand, look at this picture of a burger, you can feel the deliciousness just by gazing at it. Definitely visual aspects do have some weightage when it comes to food likings and it is as straightforward as you won’t accept to eat mayonnaise which looks like mayo but doesn’t taste like one and this is because of our tastebuds which have a very bad habit of remembering how something tastes.
It’s been more than 18 years of efforts of making meat and other non-vegetarian food items by using plant-based replacement and there are few successful products out there in the market. But all this just to make all the vegans and vegetarians have a luxury of knowing how non-vegetarians foods taste like? Seriously? Why don’t we make them eat meat? Believe me, that would be the worst solution to the problem. It is not that simple equation, we will come back to it later. First, allow me to explain to you how they are making veg meat.
Remember I told you, scientists are working on this since the last 18 years, it is not just a random number what I choose to put to make it sound cool. The process of understanding each food item takes time and mimicking the same with plant-based ingredients takes more time, it is not only about getting the properties right at its molecular level. Texture, appearance, flavour and functionality should match too. To put it simply, plants are crunchy, and meat is chewy. Companies like Impossible Food and Beyond Meat are the one’s who started early in this game and have already launched their products in the market and achieved one of the top positions on the demand chart but it took a while, and by this I mean the Impossible Food was founded in 2011 and launched their only product, meat, in the year 2016. It is practically not possible for a bunch of people to experiment with all possible ingredients to come close to the original product by trying out hundreds of recipes in a short span of time.
In the year 2015, a company was founded named ‘NotCo’, which claimed to make plant-based mayonnaise and milk and surprisingly it was registered as a tech company, not a food company. The hidden gem of NotCo was not their product rather the Machine Learning Algorithms, the so-called AI they use to make it. They named it Giuseppe after the Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, famous for his portraits of human faces constructed with fruits and vegetables.
The Giuseppe reportedly uses many more than 1,000 plant-based proteins in its data set to find meat and dairy replacement ingredients. It does the genome mapping to figure out which combinations would give much similar product.
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The above image shows the basic idea behind the process of making plant-based milk using NotCo’s AI which is proven to be tastier and creamy than the ideal milk sold in the market. Each time the NotCo team inputs the food item they hope to replace, the algorithm delivers an output of 50 to 60 recipes. The team then tests each version of the recipe, giving the flavour, texture, colour, and other properties numerical rankings, which are incorporated back into the algorithm. This makes the process of experimenting and prototyping much faster than the conventional laboratory method. All the successful product they launch has a ‘Not’ as a prefix to the original product name, The milk they made is called Not Milk, clearly, I am ‘Not surprised’ by the naming convention. And here is the amazing part, In the year 2019 NotCo Raises $30M in Funding.
Replacing animal-based foods can’t be the only reason why this startup is successful and has a good future. When we talk about plant-based foods it delivers a long list of benefits. It’s been long known, and long ignored by meat-eaters, that plant-based diets are good for people’s health and the environment.
- Meat Production Produces Greenhouse Gases: Experts predict a vegan world could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70%.
- Meat Production May Be Contributing To Antibiotic Resistance: Many animals in close quarters are constantly fed a low dose of antibiotics to reduce illness across the livestock.
- Factory Farm Conditions Make Many People Sad: Often, animals in factory farms are subjected to what many consider cruel.
- Vegetarian Diets May Reduce The Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease: Limiting the amount of meat consumed can reduce cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Seeing all these benefits pushes us to think about environmental harm meat causes. Hats off to all the amazing startups which took the initiative and advantage of the growing technology to bring a new revolution in the food industry. Talking about NotCo, now selling us Not Mayo, Not Milk, Not Ice-cream and soon in 2021 they are launching ‘Not meat’ in the market which reportedly tastes better than meat and has the same nutritional properties. The above burger image is one of the promised product by NotCo (sounds like a treat to me!!).
Now, we all can contribute to the world just by eating our favourite foods without compromising its nutritional value and taste, just like how we contributed to the world during a pandemic by lying on the couch. What an amazing time to be alive.