Who needs cows when you can make milk from scratch?

What’s new: NotMilk, a dairy-free milk substitute that was designed with help from a deep learning model, made its debut in American grocery stores, the Wall Street Journal reports.

How it works: Chilean food-tech startup NotCo developed a model called Giuseppe that finds combinations of plant products that mimic the characteristics of animal-derived foods. The model also helped NotCo develop plant-based mayonnaise, ice cream, and hamburgers.

  • NotCo scientists fed Giuseppe the molecular characteristics of cow’s milk, the company told The Batch. The model combed a database for plant-based ingredients that combine to replicate the physical and chemical properties of milk. Some of its choices were surprising: NotMilk contains pineapple juice, cabbage juice, chicory root, and coconut.
  • Chefs cooked up prototypes, and human testers rated them for flavor, mouth feel, and visual appeal. Then researchers plugged the ratings into the database to refine Guiseppe’s training.
  • The company fortified NotMilk with vitamins and vegetable proteins to make it nutritionally similar to cow’s milk. It tested the final product to ensure that it behaved properly in processes like baking and steaming.

Behind the news: NotCo is one of several companies using machine learning to discover new culinary secrets.

  • Snack food giant Frito Lay is modeling chemical compounds to enhance the aroma of its products.
  • Ingredion, a supplier of food ingredients, uses robots to collect data on texture. Its engineers use the data to model mouth feel for a variety of products.
  • Analytical Flavor Systems deployed models that analyze data on consumer preferences to find flavors that appeal to different demographic groups, and then sells its insights to food and beverage companies.

Why it matters: Producing animal-based foods can take enormous quantities of natural resources compared to growing and processing plants. If AI can help the food and beverage industry develop the market for animal-free substitutes — which is expected to grow 14 percent annually over the next five years, according to one analysis —it could reduce the environmental toll.

We’re thinking: We look forward to the day when an AI-powered chef in our AI-augmented kitchen pours us a glass of AI-designed milk.

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