30 Most Valuable Brands of the Year 2022

Motif FoodWorks – Reinventing the way science is applied to make plant-based foods better tasting, more nutritious, and sustainable


The rapid evolution of consumers' preference despite being still rooted in taste is rapidly combining with an exponential growth of environmental awareness. Both are forcing innovation into the food industry sector. Today, it is common in the scientific literature to find awareness of nutrition and sustainability, functionality and freshness, taste, and pollution; the most relevant and recognized trends are evolving with unprecedented speed toward a new paradigm. The perfect storm of fast-growing population, together with an exploding level of environmental pollution, is combining with the request for functional foods with more defined health properties and is strongly pushing the food sector to new defined innovation objectives to keep and develop the economic role of most loved brands around the world. The ongoing development of plant-based foods also involves the use of encapsulation and, more recently, nanotechnology to modify and convert natural components into a more stable, active and bioavailable form. In addition, consumer interest is increasingly directed towards personalized nutrition, which is accompanied by the development of new approaches in food processing and food platforms to determine the real benefits and recommendations.

Motif FoodWorks is one such food-technology company working to make plant-based foods better tasting, more nutritious and so desirable that people actually crave them. The company is showcasing the power of plant-based foods by taking a novel approach to develop ingredients that combine science and technology — merged with sensory fundamentals — to reveal totally new answers. Unlike other food and ingredient companies, they are built to bring the outside in. Motif FoodWorks is a lean, nimble organization with seasoned professionals who have lived and led food businesses, along with science and technology experts who have renovated, innovated and designed leading-edge solutions. Together, they curate and connect with world-class scientists, universities, partners and technology platforms. By radically changing the understanding of plant-based food, Motif will enable crave-worthy products that exceed taste and experience expectations, unlocking benefits for everyone and the planet.

Motif FoodWorks is able to solve for craveable attributes in meat alternatives due to their unique approach. They unravel food's secrets by exploring how individual ingredients work together, focusing on important sensory experiences that drive consumer enjoyment. And they are able to bring innovations to market for their customers faster thanks to their industry and supply chain expertise. Their ingredients are not made in a vacuum. The firm and its team understand what consumers crave in meat alternatives because they talk to them all the time. It’s an essential step in developing better products for the customers. And thanks to the culinary and applications expertise, they’ve tested their Hemami and Appetex technologies in a showcase burger to see how consumers responded.

Hemami™: The real umami flavors, appearance and aromas of meat – without the animal. Motif FoodWorks has unlocked a step-change in what’s possible in meat alternatives. It offers rich umami flavor and aromas that engage the senses. It tastes and smells like meat because it uses the same naturally occurring heme protein. Mouth-watering aromas that engage the senses – while cooked and right before you take your first bite. Through precision fermentation, they are able to make Hemami without the animal. It’s a revolution in food production with benefits for people, animals and the planet.

Appetex™: Motif FoodWorks literally recreated the texture of animal tissue – with plants. That means plant-based meat with the springy, juicy chewdown that consumers crave. Feeling is believing. Experience real meaty texture and springy mouthfeel in every bite. Moisture is an essential experience when it comes to meat and texture. Appetex holds and expresses the juicy properties of meat. Through their understanding of what makes food crave-worthy, Motif made plant-based ingredients behave like the texture of animal tissue.

Rewriting Food Design Rules

Motif's goal is simple. They help make plant-based foods that people crave. The key to unlocking their full potential is to rewrite food design rules. They unravel food's secrets by exploring how individual ingredients work together, focusing on important sensory experiences that drive consumer enjoyment. They analyze differently, looking at both science and consumer insights to uncover root issues and opportunities that will transform plant-based foods. They design differently by combining their ingredient technology, fundamental insights and culinary expertise to optimize familiar forms — and create new food experiences.

The Visionary Leader Upfront

Mike Leonard serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Motif FoodWorks. He brings nearly two decades of experience in senior industrial science and technology roles in the specialty food ingredient and fast-moving consumer goods industries, with an emphasis on combining innovation, commercial execution, and organization-wide collaboration to deliver business results across developed and emerging markets. He served as Motif’s Chief Technology Officer from 2019 to 2022, where he developed the company’s technical strategy, built its R&D capabilities and delivered its first products. Prior to joining Motif, Mike served as VP of White Space Innovation and Springboard R&D at Kraft Heinz, where he led product, packaging and process development strategy and execution for emerging growth platforms across all categories of the business. Previously, he was VP of Process Technology for Global Snacks R&D at PepsiCo, in addition to serving in leadership roles at DuPont Nutrition & Health and International Flavors & Fragrances in process and protein ingredient research, business development and strategy. He holds a PhD in Polymer Science & Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a BS in Chemistry from Roanoke College. He is a member of the Motif Board of Directors.

"Our passion for plant-based extends to fostering an ongoing conversation around the science of food, especially the role our senses play in creating crave-worthy experiences."