Motif FoodWorks launches plant-based meat products

Dive Brief:

  • Motif FoodWorks is launching finished plant-based meat products for foodservice providers, distributors and retailers with private label lines: Motif MoBeef, Motif MoPork and Motif MoChicken. MoBeef Plant-Based Burger Patties are available now, and MoBeef Plant-Based Ground and MoPork will be available later this year. MoChicken will be available in 2023.
  • Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition Ventures also announced an investment in Motif FoodWorks. The investment amount was not disclosed. FootPrint also will work with Motif on innovation in the plant-based space.
  • In the last several years, celebrities have invested in food companies that further their personal values related to health, function and sustainability. Downey’s FootPrint, which funds companies with climate-friendly solutions, has invested in businesses including cell-based seafood maker Wildtype, plant-based cheese producer Nobell and bug farmer Ynsect.

Dive Insight:

With this announcement, Motif FoodWorks is stepping beyond its previous efforts developing next-generation ingredients to make better, tastier and more realistic plant-based food.

The company decided to get into the finished product business after what it described as the overwhelmingly positive reception to the prototypes it designed for tests of its ingredients.

Last year, Motif did restaurant and in-home tests of products with its Hemami and Appetex ingredients to demonstrate consumer reaction to products. Motif’s Hemami ingredient is a heme protein made through precision fermentation, and Appetex is a texture enhancer. Both ingredients were launched last year.

According to Motif, these products performed well. After a trial run at Coolgreens, the president and COO of the small Texas restaurant chain said many customers tried the plant-based burgers with Motif’s ingredients and insisted they were meat burgers, according to a Q&A on the ingredient company’s corporate blog. Several customers were surveyed, and 93% said they would eat sandwiches featuring Motif’s food tech regularly. More than six in 10 said they would purchase the sandwich again. 

While the product launches demonstrate the success of the Motif-crafted plant-based meat products, the new investment from FootPrint bolsters the company’s entire thesis and mission. The announcement of the funding states that Motif’s unique approach to food tech, reinventing the way that science and culinary arts are applied to food, caught Downey’s eye.

FootPrint also intends to work with Motif on product development — both supporting new ingredients and products that are like animal-derived equivalents. It also aims to help create new types of plant-based products that are healthy and sustainable, the release said. It’s unclear how much FootPrint can do with R&D, but the venture firm has a BetaTasters program for consumers who are interested in trying samples of products in development and providing feedback.

Motif’s announcement on finished products comes at an interesting time for the company.

Motif is embroiled in a legal battle with Impossible Foods dealing with patents. Impossible sued Motif in March, claiming the food tech company infringed on at least one of its patents when it made the burgers to demonstrate its Hemami and Appetex ingredients — the very thing that Motif will now be making as a product. The patent in question deals with how to make a plant-based beef hamburger, including 0.1% to 5% of a heme-containing protein.

Last month, Motif responded by filing a petition with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board that challenged the validity of Impossible Foods’ patent. Through this petition, Motif is asking judges from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to revoke Impossible Foods’s patent because numerous patents regarding meat substitutes, composition of meat analogs and heme proteins had previously been issued.

Both of these cases are pending, but by launching finished products, Motif shows it is not deterred by Impossible’s lawsuit. Motif is not just relying on these new products for its future business development. The company said it is still bullish on the ingredients business.

Motif has made recent movements in ingredients development. Earlier this month, it made an investment in NemaLife, a company that has a system using artificial intelligence and microfluidics to screen different proteins and other substances. 

In a press release, Motif said bringing these capabilities to food ingredient testing can provide a much earlier indication of functional capabilities, cutting down on R&D time and being able to bring safe and innovative offerings to the market much faster.