NotChicken Tenders is at the forefront of its new portfolio and is a plant-based chicken created with fava beans, bamboo, and peach powder that provides a similar mouthfeel, texture, and aroma to animal-based chicken and with a “darker meat forward tastes,” NotCo CEO and Founder Matias Muchnick told FoodNavigator-USA.
The brand also showcased several other products at Expo West that will be launching throughout the year, including:
- NotMilk Unsweetened Vanilla is an unsweetened version of its NotMilk, which is created with a pea protein base and is lactose- and soy-free. This product will release in June and cost $3.99.
- NotMilk HiPro is a ready-to-drink protein shake with 20g of plant protein and nine essential amino acids. Launching in the second half of 2023, this beverage will be available in Dark Chocolate and a yet-to-be-announced flavor.
- NotMilk Barista is a foamable plant-based cream for coffees and teas, created with a blend of oat and chickpea, and will launch in the second half of 2023.
AI for faster food and flavor creation
These launches come during a time of increased interest in AI-based technology in food and beverage where it offers novel approaches to creating products, including streamlining flavor development, Muchnick said.
NotCo builds its algorithms to "understand the underlying patterns between the molecular components of food and the human perception of taste, texture, and smell," Muchnick said. The AI technology can look at ingredients more objectively and find combinations that food scientists might not normally think of, he added.
AI “changes the rules of the game” when it comes to flavor development, Muchnick said. With its AI tool Flora, a part of Giuseppe, NotCo can search a database of 30,000 aroma molecules and find combinations that would often be overlooked, he said. Noting how aroma plays a crucial role in our perception of taste, Muchnick explained that the brand used Flora to find aroma chemicals to recreate the scent of chicken, which they then told flavorists to use in the formulation of the NotChicken flavor.
"It's not that we come with a base to ... one of [these] flavor houses, and we say, 'hey, you know what, we want this to taste like chicken.' It's the other way around. Hey, we discovered that this group of molecules put together, derived from these ingredients, generates the taste of chicken that we want to add to the NotChicken product ... and can you put this molecule together for us."
Partnering with other brands, going B2B
In addition to building out its portfolio, NotCo is bolstering its business-to-business channel with its NotCo Tech division and finding partnerships that make sense for the company.
Kraft Heinz was one such company, with which NotCo partnered to launch a co-branded company called Kraft Heinz Not Company last year. Kraft “[wanted] to go harder in plant-based,” and the two brands were “consistent with a mission of creating a dent when it comes to sustainability,” Muchnick said.
“We [wanted] to create an independent company called the Kraft Heinz Not Company, where we are able to utilize the best out of both companies right from NotCo the R&D … and from Kraft the legacy of the brands, the muscle of the commercialization process, distribution, manufacturing, and so on.”
But as Muchnick noted, NotCo isn’t just opening up its AI-based platform to anyone and is only “servicing other companies when they are aligned in objectives with us in [terms of] branding and co-branding.”