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Creating “Crave-Worthy” Plant-Based Foods

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Controversy continues to build surrounding plant-based foods, with research suggesting that a diet that is primarily plant-based is associated with improved health and is more sustainable for our environment. While some people opt for a plant-based diet for their own personal reasons, there are others, that perhaps appreciate the importance of reducing their intake of animal products but cannot bear to part with their crispy bacon or resist ordering that beef burger that melts in the mouth.

Motif FoodWorks, an ingredient innovation company, is aiming to close this gap with the help of scientific experts across a range of food and academic disciplines. Together, they intend to create “crave-worthy” plant-based foods for people to enjoy. Technology Networks spoke to Stefan Baier, head of food science at Motif FoodWorks, to learn more about the exclusive access to transformative plant-based food technologies the company has recently been granted. He also highlights the role plant-based foods play in protecting the environment and the importance of flavor and texture when developing plant-based foods.

Zoe Braybrook (ZB): What inspired Motif FoodWorks to join forces with the University of Guelph in Ontario and Prof. Alejandro Marangoni, can you tell us more about the expanded collaboration and the new technologies you now have access to?

Stefan Baier (SB):
Motif FoodWorks is a food technology company on a mission to make plant-based foods that people crave – and this partnership is important to that mission. It gives us exclusive access to two advanced food technologies that solve critical industry challenges: nailing the taste, texture and nutrition of plant-based cheese and meat. Those areas are crucial to delivering a pleasurable eating experience and boosting long-term adoption of plant-based foods. Professor Marangoni and Motif FoodWorks are both aligned on using new, innovative scientific methods to bring crave-worthy plant-based foods to consumers and broadening the category’s adoption. 

Through our expanded collaboration with the University of Guelph and Coasun, Motif FoodWorks will now have exclusive access to the following:  

  • Extrudable fat technology: Unique oleogel technology that replicates animal fat, allowing for more authentic fat textures, such as marbling, in plant-based meats – acquired from Coasun.
  • Prolamin technology: Uses plant-based ingredients to improve the texture of plant-based cheese, allowing it to melt, bubble, and stretch like animal-derived dairy – licensed from the University of Guelph.

ZB: Can you discuss the role plant-based foods play in protecting the environment? 

Plant-based foods have the potential to make our food system more sustainable and healthier. But products have to taste better if we want to drive mainstream adoption. That is why we’re “laser focused” on improving attributes like the taste and texture of current plant-based meat and dairy products. 

Laura Lansdowne (LL): What are some of the underlying challenges to consider when creating “crave-worthy” plant-based foods?

The taste and texture of plant-based foods are a well-known barrier to entry for consumers experimenting with animal-free options. The future of the plant-based category depends on the industry finding innovative solutions to these experience gaps. For example, current plant-based cheese options are formulated in a way that leaves you with an oily, starchy paste when they are melted. Plant-based meats, on the other hand, rely on saturated fats, which means they aren’t able to provide consumers with the same marbleized fat as a steak and they are also less nutritious.

With these new technologies from Guelph and Coasun, we’ll be able to enable performance in plant-based foods previously unheard of – from plant-based cheese on a sandwich or pizza that actually stretches and melts, to plant-based meat with marbleized fat just like a ribeye or a New York strip.

LL: What steps is Motif FoodWorks taking to tackle these challenges?

Current approaches to food ingredient innovation and renovation consistently fail to fully unlock enjoyment, especially around flavor and texture, limiting plant-based food acceptance and growth. Our research has identified the key shortcomings that need to be fixed and we are closing the gaps by combining new technologies in novel ways. Motif’s development is grounded in performance insights and biometrics to unravel food’s secrets. We look at everything, taking a holistic approach and studying food’s elements at a molecular level to its macromolecular properties. Our process accelerates opportunities and cuts innovation timelines end to end.

Motif FoodWorks also partners with leaders in food research to find the best solutions to challenges we face when creating plant-based innovations. By collaborating with academic partners like Prof. Marangoni, and institutions like the University of Queensland, UMass Amherst, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we are able to expand our insights and create better-tasting, more nutritious plant-based options.   

ZB: While trying to replicate the look and texture of animal-derived products, how do you ensure the nutritional value is maintained too?  

Today’s plant-based cheese alternatives lack the pleasure of their animal counterparts, and current market options heavily rely on saturated fats, which can make products less nutritious. That’s why Motif is working to make plant-based foods that are both craveable and nutritious. The extrudable fat technology will allow us to use healthier (less saturated) oils rather than what is currently used (coconut and palm oil).

Stefan Baier was speaking with Zoe Braybrook, Marketing Campaign Coordinator and Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne, Managing Editor at Technology Networks.