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Motif FoodWorks: Feeding the growing appetite for tasty, sustainable foods

The investment: In 2021, we co-led a US$226 million Series B financing for Motif FoodWorks, a food tech startup using science to develop appealing plant-based foods.

The global population is expected to approach 10 billion by 2050. That means there will be another 2 billion people to feed, even as we collectively race to reduce emissions and limit the conversion of more forest to farmland. Feeding the world’s growing population sustainably is one of the greatest challenges of our time. It will require a host of adjustments to how we produce, transport, store and consume food. One oft-cited solution is for human beings to reduce their consumption of animal proteins, which require more land and water to produce than plant proteins, while generating significantly more emissions. How much more resource-intensive is livestock production? It takes almost 100 times as much land to produce a gram of protein from beef or lamb as one from peas or tofu, according to Oxford University data.

There’s just one problem. Most of us simply like animal proteins better. The juicy, fatty mouthfeel and aroma of a beef burger. The cheesy stretch of a slice of pizza. While many consumers understand the health and sustainability benefits of shifting to more plant-based foods, taste and texture remain major obstacles. It’s Motif FoodWorks’ mission to change the reality—and consumer perceptions—about the taste of plant-based foods.

The Boston-based company, its scientists, culinary experts and partners are working to improve the flavour, texture and nutrition of plant-based foods, so that consumers will crave them on their own merits. Motif provides companies with a range of food technologies and finished food forms, from meat and dairy alternatives to plant-based experiences that inspire new categories. Its aim: developing nutritious, plant-based foods that consumers will want because they taste good, not just because they feel good about eating them.

One of Motif’s innovations, HEMAMI™, provides rich, umami flavor and aroma to plant-based meat. Produced via precision fermentation, it tastes and smells like meat because it mimics the same heme protein that occurs naturally in beef—without the animal. Another innovation, APPETEX™, delivers the meaty chewdown and juiciness of meat. In testing, two-thirds of consumers preferred a plant-based burger with HEMAMI™ and APPETEX™ over the leading plant-based meat product at retail. Motif has also developed a corn prolamin technology that makes plant-based cheese melt and stretch like dairy cheese.

Motif plans to open a state-of-the-art market-development centre this year, complete with research space, pilot-production lines and consumer-testing spaces. We can’t wait for it to taste success on a larger scale.

“With support from Ontario Teachers’, we’re using new science to rewrite food design rules and make plant-based food better tasting, more nutritious and crave-worthy. It’s a revolution with benefits for people and the planet.” 

Jonathan McIntyre, CEO,
Motif FoodWorks