- Motif FoodWorks has received exclusive access to two technologies to improve plant-based food. One is an extrudable fat technology that can create more authentic fat textures in plant-based meat, and the other is a prolamin technology using plant-based ingredients to improve the texture of plant-based cheese.
- These technologies came to Motif through its ongoing partnership with Canada's University of Guelph and tech company Coasun's founder Alejandro Marangoni, who is a research chair at the university. Motif has acquired the fat technology from Coasun and is licensing the prolamin technology from the university.
- Plant-based foods are often at a competitive disadvantage because they don't behave like their animal-based equivalents. Some of the conventional ingredient solutions to bridge this gap are high in saturated fats and not healthy.
From its inception, Motif FoodWorks' mission was clear: Create ingredients that improve plant-based foods. Through years of R&D work and forging partnerships with top researchers outside of its corporate structure, it's getting closer to that goal.
The fat technology is an oleogel that converts liquid oil to a more solid ingredient with the function of fat, Motif said. It can be used to create marbling and other authentic looks and textures in plant-based meats. The prolamin technology helps plant-based cheese to melt, bubble and stretch like animal-derived dairy ingredients.
"Motif will enable performance in plant-based foods previously unheard of — from plant-based cheese on a sandwich or pizza that actually stretches and melts to plant-based meat with marbleized fat just like a ribeye or a NY strip," Motif's Head of Food Science Stefan Baier said in a statement emailed to Food Dive. Baier has been leading the Motif-University of Guelph collaboration since it began in 2019.
Making plant-based meat as close to that derived from animals has been a goal of most companies in the sector. According to a 2019 study from NPD Group cited by NBC News, nearly nine out of 10 people who eat plant-based meat are not vegetarians or vegans. Plant-based meat companies have specifically designed products to taste and behave like meat, and are even doubling down on positioning their products as meat. Of consumers who eat plant-based meat, according to a 2019 white paper from Kerry, 73% said plant-based products should have a meat-like taste — often achieved through fat.
But there is not a perfect substitute for animal fat on the market. A survey published earlier this year from cultivated fat producer Peace of Meat found that two-thirds of plant-based meat companies would be interested in using an animal fat cultivated from cells in their products, though nothing like that is available yet. The extrudable technology may be closer to appearing on the market, and could also provide a ready alternative.
The technology that helps plant-based cheese melt, bubble and stretch like the dairy-based varieties could also improve the offerings in that segment. While non-dairy cheeses have vastly improved in terms of taste and function in the past several years, their performance is lacking. Startups like New Culture Foods and Change Foods have been working to cultivate dairy proteins that don't come from animals and could be used to create cheese, but have nothing on the market yet. The technology licensed by Motif has the advantage of being completely dairy free, meaning consumers with milk allergies may prefer it.
Motif has been in the R&D phase since its inception, but is getting closer to having ingredients available for food companies. In January, CEO Jonathan McIntyre said in an interview the company planned to have its first two items on the market later this year. Adding capabilities like the fat extrusion and cheese protein technology will bolster Motif's offerings — and help the company create a more diverse suite of ingredients to support the plant-based sector.