Business

Sigma Alimentos invests in Chile-based food tech startup The Live Green Co.

The global food company is interested in the startup's plant-based tech platform, supposedly capable of creating alternatives for several types of foods

A woman with a t-shirt and several plant-based products at front of her
Co-founder of The Live Green Co (TGLC), a food tech startup, Priyanka Srivinas. Photo: TLGC/Courtesy.
  • TLGC’s software, called Charaka, uses data about plants to recommend 100% natural plant alternatives to the animal, synthetic & highly-processed additives in our food products;
  • Sigma already used the startup’s technology to replace the additives in one of their best-selling products.

Sigma Alimentos, a global food company present in 18 countries, has announced a minority investment in a white-label food-tech startup based in Chile called The Live Green Co (TLGC). The company is interested in the startup‘s plant-based tech platform, supposedly capable of creating alternatives for several types of foods. Neither the value of the deal nor the share that Sigma will have in TLGC has been disclosed.

TLGC participated in Tastech by Sigma, an acceleration program aimed at startups and scale-ups worldwide that explores machine learning solutions, the development of new foods and ingredients, and the generation of new business models in the production, distribution, and distribution marketing of food products. From 123 companies, seven were selected to develop pilot projects within Sigma’s program, and TLGC was of them.

READ ALSO: Mexican food tech startup Heartbest wants to build a digital community around plant-based dairy products

The pilot project tested by the startup was the Charaka engine, a proprietary machine-learning software that uses data about plants to recommend 100% natural plant alternatives to the animal, synthetic & highly-processed additives in our food products. During the pilot, Sigma Alimentos says that it used Charaka to replace the additives in “one of its best-selling products.”

Over 250 startups and scale-ups from 23 countries have applied for the second edition of Tastech by Sigma. In its first-quarter earnings results of 2021, Sigma Alimentos also said that it has invested in Blue Horizon Ventures, the second-largest fund worldwide when it comes to food technologies and an investor of several startups in the sector, such as the Mexican Heartbest.

READ ALSO: Brazilian JBS buys plant-based food company Vivera for EUR 341 million

How TLGC’s software works

TLGC’s software uses sources as the existing scientific base that has validated certain plants, plant parts, and compounds (of the more than 500,000 plants and plant parts that exist, it is estimated that only about 2-3% have been explored by modern science) and ancestral wisdom about plants (“Charaka” comes from Charaka Samhita, one of the oldest and the most important ancient authoritative writings on Indian philosophy Ayurveda).

“One great example of Charaka in action can be found in the development of our latest line of 100% plant-based ice cream, which was created using the platform in just 90 days and US$15,000,” co-founder Priyanka Srivinas tells LABS.

According to her, the process began with Charaka analyzing popular plant-based ice creams available on the market. “Charaka provided the functionalities of each of the ingredients and additives while scanning its databases and providing 100% natural plant alternatives: like milk made from seeds and banana, and cream made from seeds, avocado, linseed, and sunflower oil, along with nutritional information”, explains Srivinas.

Using the recommendations given by the tech platform as a base, the startup‘s production team experimented and developed its proprietary ice cream formulations. After that, the ice cream were validated in terms of flavor, shelf-life and nutritional qualities, “all without chefs or prior experience related to ice-cream manufacturing”, stressed the entrepreneur.

TGLC’s ice cream, made using the startup’s proprietary software Charaka. Photo: TGLC/Courtesy.

In total, Srivinas says that the R&D process took less than 30 days, and the complete idea to commercialization—including packaging design and material procurement, raw materials purchase, manufacturing and logistics partnerships, and distribution tie-ups—took 90 days. She also says that and at the cost of less than $15,000. The Live Green Co.’s clean ice cream line will soon be available at one of Chile’s largest supermarket chains, Jumbo,” says Srinivas.

READ ALSO: Brazilian food tech’s behemoth iFood delivers 60 million monthly orders amid the pandemic

The Live Green Co’s next steps

According to TLGC’s co-founder, Sigma’s investment is a win-win move for both businesses: “Sigma Alimentos will benefit from the ability to clean labels with the AI-powered R&D technology of The Live Green Co., while our startup will benefit from Sigma’s proven product formulation development IP, market intelligence and capacity to scale production across geographic and product lines. Further, the partnership provides The Live Green Co. with access to even more scientific research for its algorithm,” she says.

Daniel Alanis, chief growth officer at Sigma, mentioned in a press statement that TLGC “is one of the most exciting plant-based startups in LatAm.”

READ ALSO: On the edge of becoming Latin America’s new unicorn, NotCo takes baby steps in the U.S. plant-based market

As an early-stage startup, TLGC started off commercializing a few products under its own label in major retailers in Chile (Jumbo, Lider (Walmart), and Tottus), Peru (in the popular supermarket chains Plaza Vea and Vivanda), and in the U.S. via Amazon

TLGC’s goal now is to scale through to a collaborative business model, that is, through the franchising/licensing of product formulations developed with Charaka and the sale of the base mixes of these products to retailers and food manufactures. “This will help them respond quickly to the market needs and consumer trends without having to invest in R&D and technology. In a way, it’s like how Coca-Cola sells its syrups to regional distributors,” says Srinivas. Currently, Chile is the pilot market for the startup, and Mexico its main growth market.

The startup currently protects its IP via trade secret agreements and selling base mixes. “We will apply for patents once we complete our next round of funding (Pre-Series A of US$ 5M).”

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