This week, Boston-based food technology startup Motif FoodWorks announced a 12-month long project in which it will work to improve the taste, texture, and appearance of plant-based meat and dairy products through the development of better plant-based fats. The project aims to close a gap in the plant-based meat and cheese sector, which typically relies on coconut oil to replicate the sensory experience of animal-derived fats but falls short in mimicking animal fat when it comes to taste, cooking qualities, or interactions with other ingredients. Motif will work on the project in collaboration with University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, and Dr. Alejandro Marangoni, Tier I Canada Research Chair in Food, Health, and Aging at Guelph and founder of ingredient company Coasun, Inc. 

“Creating the right kind of fat structures in plant-based foods is one of the most significant—and exciting—challenges in the category because fat plays such a critical role in what makes some of our favorite food experiences so satisfying,” Mike Leonard, Chief Technology Officer at Motif FoodWorks, said. “In our work with Marangoni and the University of Guelph, we will evaluate technologies with the potential to serve as critical new building blocks in plant-based food design.” 

The project will explore novel technologies such as replacing saturated fat with an animal-free emulsion system that exhibits the physical properties of saturated fat at room temperature; replicating critical animal fat structures, such as the pockets of fat in meat products that produce; and improving the texture of plant-based cheeses to be more meltable and elastic.

“Understanding how to properly structure fat in plant-based food is mission-critical for the food industry,” Marangoni said. “We are excited to work alongside Motif to determine how some of the newest and most exciting technologies will work in new food products to improve the sensory experience of plant-based meat and dairy on a broader scale.”

Motif FoodWorks announced its launch in February 2019 after securing $90 million in Series A funding led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures—a fund that includes billionaires such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Virgin founder Richard Branson.

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