Motif FoodWorks raised $27.5 million, led by General Atlantic, a global growth equity firm. The Boston-based company, which rebranded itself as Motif FoodWorks from Motif Ingredients, plans to use the additional funding to accelerate the development of animal-free ingredients derived from more sustainable processes.
Motif has seen "an incredible response from the industry" since being launched earlier this year by biotechnology firm Ginkgo Bioworks. "It's clear that the movement towards animal-free is no passing fad," CEO Jon McIntyre said in a statement.
Motif combines molecular food science with Ginkgo’s synthetic biology platform to produce a wide range of ingredients for enhancing plant-based foods, according to Forbes.
When Motif was created earlier this spring, Gingko Bioworks said the plan was to have the new company use its bioengineering capabilities and expertise to develop alternative proteins and other food ingredients. Motif would use Gingko's biological engineering platform to recreate proteins from dairy, egg and meat to use in plant-based alternatives, the parent company noted.
About six months into its existence, Motif has approximately 15 products under development, according to Forbes. McIntyre told the publication that each one is meant to enhance functionality, taste and/or nutrition, although none has yet gone public. One product would replicate milk proteins to mimic breast milk, while another would better maintain fat structure in plant-based burgers, McIntyre said. Those could be major revenue enhancers for Motif if they were ever rolled out more broadly and embraced by major CPG food and beverage manufacturers.
The additional $27.5 million investment should help move these projects along. Another resource is Motif's recent partnership with MISTA, a San Francisco-based business accelerator and incubator program for food and beverage startups founded by Danone, Mars, Ingredion and Givaudan, among others companies.
Motif's recent employee hires provide some indication of the approach it intends to take as these products get closer to market. The company named a new head of regulatory, government and industry affairs; a new director of business development; and a new business development manager. The executive team brings decades of industry experience to their roles with Motif. It's likely they will closely monitor developments in the food space and make sure any ingredients Motif introduces will be accepted by food companies and the consumers who will ultimately buy those products.
McIntyre previously was senior vice president for research and development for PepsiCo's snack division. He also had a similar role for startup Indigo Agriculture. It's likely that he knows a lot about how to position a company and make sure its products respond to the needs of the customers. This experience could go a long way in terms of portioning Motif for long-term success. Animal- and plant-based proteins are some of the hottest products in the food and beverage industry today, so there will probably be plenty of companies looking to do business with Motif.
And while other plant-based competitors also are actively raising serious money for similar purposes — including JUST and Sustainable Bioproducts — there likely is enough room in the booming sector for Motif FoodWorks to have a meaningful impact.