The company, established in Santiago in Chile six years ago, uses local manufacturing partners in the countries in which it operates, but is importing the NotMilk and NotBurger range for now in Australia. That will change once early sales targets are hit.
“We don’t own any manufacturing facilities,” he said. “It’s very lean, and it’s a capital-light model.”
Star-studded investor base
Mr Muchnick said the plant-based food and beverages market was still in its early stages.
“First movers always have a huge opportunity to introduce the category and have a head start,” he said.
The company has a star-studded investor base, which also includes former Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has invested via his family office Bezos Expeditions. Mr Muchnick said having such a big player on the share register of the group did not bring any extra pressure. All investors, including sports stars Roger Federer and Lewis Hamilton, were looking for a return on their funds, no matter whether they were large or small.
The last major fundraising completed in July valued the group at $US1.5 billion ($2.06 billion).
“We’re a company that is naturally pressured all the time,” he said. “It’s all about execution.”
NotCo uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to replicate the molecular structure of animal-based products and recreate them using plant-based ingredients.
But even the brave new world of machine learning has not fully shielded NotCo from the serious supply chain disruptions, initially caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and worsened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine produces about 25 per cent of the world’s sunflower oil, an important component of plant-based foods. Mr Muchnick said NotCo had been able to source some sunflower oil from other markets, and had also worked fast to implement substitute ingredients which did not alter the taste or look of the product.
The sharp jump in shipping and freight costs had also proved frustrating. Mr Muchnick said the costs of shipping containers had climbed by between 10 to 20 times compared with pre-pandemic levels.
He said NotCo would branch out into other plant-based product ranges using the “Not” branding. “It’s around the halo effect of being in other categories,” he said.
NotCo is competing against a range of other plant-based food companies when it comes to burgers and chicken nuggets. One of the largest is v2food, the plant-based “meat” company backed by Rich Lister Jack Cowin, who built his fortune from the Hungry Jack’s fast-food burger chain.
Main Sequence, the venture capital arm of the CSIRO, is a large shareholder in v2food. The CSIRO’s Main Sequence is also a 39.9 per cent shareholder in Eden Brew, which is preparing to commercialise a “milk” made in a lab using a natural fermentation process which replicates what happens inside a dairy cow. NSW dairy co-operative Norco is the second-largest shareholder in Eden Brew.