Motif FoodWorks lays off employees as it restructures

Dive Brief:

  • Food-tech firm Motif FoodWorks has laid off an unspecified number of employees after undergoing a restructuring. The news was first reported by FoodNavigator.
  • “Given the current economic conditions, we’re pivoting our focus to key priorities that we know will return maximum ROI for our customers and investors,” a Motif spokesperson told Food Dive in a statement. “As a result, we will tighten our employee base in some areas.”
  • Motif said it will invest in priority areas related to its food-tech and finished products where it is seeing strong demand. News of the layoffs at Motif FoodWorks — which spun off from biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks in 2019 to create ingredients for protein alternatives — comes as growth in the plant-based meat segment has slowed and startup funding has started to fall.

Dive Insight:

Motif FoodWorks’ past year has had its share of knockout news. It included a $226 million fundraising round, launching a plant-based meat line for foodservice and securing a high-profile investment from Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition Ventures.

In December, Boston-based Motif was slated to begin work on a 65,000-square-foot market development center in Massachusetts, with pilot plants for fermentation, ingredient and finished product production. It also announced that its Hemami ingredient — a heme protein created through precision fermentation — was ready for large-scale distribution. And it positioned its next product for debut later this year: Appetex, a plant-based hydrogel that it said can improve the texture of plant-based meat. 

Hemami and Appetex are both starring in the new foodservice line targeted at restaurants, retailers with private-label brands and distributors. It’s here that the run of positive news for Motif turned. In March, plant-based giant Impossible Foods sued Motif for infringing on at least one of its patents with the new Hemami ingredient. Motif responded by challenging the validity of Impossible Foods’ patent, which it asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to revoke.

Motif has not provided further details on how many workers it laid off or which areas were affected, nor did it share any particulars of the restructuring when asked by Food Dive. However, some of the tailwinds that helped propel Motif just over a year ago appear to be flagging. For one, growth in the plant-based meat segment has stalled, with CPGs including Beyond Meat, Maple Leaf Foods and Kellogg observing a downward shift in momentum.

And, after a banner year of food-tech funding in 2021, the trend for 2022 has been the reverse. A recent analysis by Crunchbase found that funding for North American startups slipped in the second quarter, and were off 25% compared to a year ago. This could make the need to operate efficiently and lean a top priority for Motif, which operates in a capital-intensive space.