Roger Federer, AI, and plant-based food: the singular story of Chile's first unicorn
Chilean startup NotCo has its sights on more than building a new, niche vegan brand. It wants to take over the world, and make plant-based mainstream.
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At the cusp of a food revolution
The way humanity eats is fundamentally unsustainable. Animal agriculture, intensive one in particular, is now the second largest contributor to carbon emissions behind fossil fuels. Not only that, but animal agriculture on a large scale requires a profusion of water and land resources, making it one of the main culprits for deforestation and subsequent biodiversity loss.
Younger generations have been well-exposed to these facts, exemplified and encapsulated by thought-provoking Netflix exposés such as Cowspiracy. Gen Z’s overexposure to the climate change threat has made many of them acutely aware of the predicament the current livestock agricultural system poses to the earth’s livability.
These factors have all conflated into new food consumption habits. The recent and seemingly uninhibited rise of plant-based food is at the forefront of these changes. Major companies in the space such as Impossible or Beyond Meat have understood that the key to democratizing plant-based food was to recreate what meat tasted and felt like, not to try and switch the entire population to a diet made of stale grains and salad.
“The plant-based food market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.9% from 2020 to 2027 to reach $74.2 billion by 2027.” - Research and Markets
The plant-based food industry’s tailwinds are strong and unlikely to recede anytime soon. On top of the environmental concerns, plant-based diets are gaining popularity due to increasing health concerns about an overly carnivorous diet. The growing urban population, for whom environmental and health standards hold more and more weight, is even leading fast-food incumbents to change their ways.
“International restaurant chains, including Taco Bell, Chipotle, Jamba Juice, and Starbucks will be significant players in increased sales and consumption of plant-based alternatives. Large chains offering burger, sausage, and milk alternatives will encourage consumer habits to adjust to plant-based food products.” - Bloomberg Intelligence
NotCo: The origin story
The main protagonist for today’s story is Matías Muchkin, one of NotCo’s co-founders and its current CEO. Matías hails from the South American country of Chile, internationally known for a few things including its unique shape and the singular economic development path it took compared to its Latino neighbors. I briefly touched upon this in my deep-dive analyzing the Chilean startup ecosystem.