April Edition 2021

Motif FoodWorks is Rewriting the Food Design Rules Through its Innovations


Food today includes a lot of animal-based ingredients. These ingredients are included in the staple food of most cultures all over the world. They are undoubtedly great at titillating the oral palate of the masses but now the time has come to seek out the animal-free, ethically-produced ingredients that can act as clean label solutions – meat and dairy alternatives. The next generation of food companies is now working on this to unravel the secrets of the food.  They are at the heart of changing the consumer values and pioneering plant-based innovations. Based out of Boston, Massachusetts, Motif FoodWorks is a leader in this space. It is a different kind of ingredient innovation company that is working to unleash the promise of plant-based foods.

Plant-based foods seem to be luring consumers that are largely non-vegetarian nowadays for health, environmental, and animal welfare reasons. While that is great news for mother earth and humanity at large, the food ingredients have to taste great. And if they don’t, then no one ends up buying them, no matter how nutritious. The simple truth is that today’s alternatives lack the pleasure associated with eating the real thing. For meat eaters to make plant-based protein options a routine part of their diet, the food has to be as satisfying as meat in every sense. The taste, texture, and smell have to all be right. Motif FoodWorks is excelling in this space through its R&D.  

Incorporating more plant-based foods into our diets is absolutely a step in the right direction. But there’s a problem, many current plant-based foods aren’t meeting, let alone exceeding, the expectations of consumers. Motif is studying the way science works in your mouth to understand how food is enjoyed and experienced. Its work is pushing the envelope of what's possible in oral-processing physics. They have a deeper understanding of how food is chewed and broken down to reveal attributes like mouthfeel, texture, juiciness and melting characteristics.

How do they do this? One part of researching—and ultimately understanding—the physics of how food is made and consumed is by imaging how food breaks down. That’s why Motif partners with experts in rheology and interfacial sciences who are designing novel techniques to visually capture material behavior, from what we see with our eyes down to the molecular level. In this way, the company is better equipped to design plant-based alternatives that act like their animal-based counterparts.

Unlike other ingredient companies, Motif is built to bring the outside in. It 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.

Leading in the plant-based innovation space means that you have to link up and network with the leading scientists and innovators. Motif has assembled an unrivaled network of academic and technical partners, with access to cutting-edge technologies to radically improve plant-based foods. The company has partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks which helps it leverage the vast DNA database to screen for proteins that solve for key taste, nutrition and other benefits. Through this partnership, the company Boston-based company is producing these proteins at scale through the power of fermentation, reducing dependence on animal products.

But Motif’s analysis is not limited to just the mouth. The company is exploring pioneering neuroscience applications to literally see how the food we consume fires neurons in the brain and gut to develop better ingredient innovation.

A Fantastic 2020

For the plat-based food industry, 2020 was a fantastic year as it grew significantly and attracted first-time buyers and exciting partnerships with mainstream brands. The plant-based meat market grew 25% compared to animal-based meat’s 9%, while plant-based dairy grew 12% year-over-year, compared to 3% for its animal-based counterparts.

But there are huge opportunities to improve plant-based foods and win over many millions of still-unsatisfied consumers. To seize that opportunity, Motif is growing fast. In addition to the beautiful new lab space to analyze, discover and design new approaches to ingredient development, the company continues to add to its unrivaled team of scientists and professionals to continue growth.

The Leader Upfront

Jonathan McIntyre, CEO

Formerly Head of R&D at Indigo Agriculture, SVP R&D at PepsiCo, and SVP at DuPont- Solae, Jon has more than 25 years in life sciences and consumer products. He’s an accomplished executive with broad experience leading technology teams, discovery and development scientists, culinary chefs, and commercial leaders. He has a passion for servant leadership, a track record of developing talent, and believes that biotechnology will propel the next food revolution through affordable, sustainable and accessible ingredients. Jon is a member of Motif’s Board of Directors.

“Motif partners with experts in rheology and interfacial sciences who are designing novel techniques to visually capture material behavior, from what we see with our eyes down to the molecular level.”