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Partnership Aims To Improve Plant-based Meat and Dairy Alternatives

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Motif FoodWorks, an ingredient innovation company striving to make plant-based food better tasting and more nutritious, has announced partnerships with two leading universities in chemical and mechanical engineering – the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – to better understand and design the rheological properties of plant-based foods. Researching the rheological properties that govern plant-based foods material properties under specific conditions, from formulation, processing to consumption, will enable Motif to develop novel insights from these techniques that will ultimately improve its ability to formulate better tasting plant-based meat and dairy analogues.

The food industry frequently relies on decades-old tools and processes to solve novel problems facing the plant-based food industry, such as texture – a critical driver of overall taste, the most important factor in consumer acceptance. Developing a better understanding of the rheological properties of this growing category will enable greater precision in identifying sensory gaps and developing ingredients and products that deliver a better eating experience for consumers.

“Texture is a critical piece of the puzzle in plant-based food – and consumers who are open to trying plant-based foods will only return to them if the veggie burger breaks down into a juicy bite with every chew, or their vegan yogurt is silky smooth,” said Stefan Baier, Motif’s head of food science. “To get these textures right in plant-based foods, we need to continue to evolve the way we approach food design, and that means looking at every single element that goes into the eating experience. Our research with UIC and UIUC aims to apply advanced rheological techniques to plant-based food formulation in novel ways that could uncover critically missed insights and unlock unprecedented possibilities for the texture of plant-based foods.”

The research with UIC and UIUC will be led by Baier in partnership with the leading rheology experts from UIC Department of Chemical Engineering, Prof. Vivek Sharma, and UIUC Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, Prof. Randy Ewoldt. Over the course of the two-year project, Motif will work with UIC and UIUC to research advanced rheological techniques from the fields of mechanical and chemical engineering and determine how they can be applied to plant-based products in new ways. The cross-disciplinary project will arm the food industry with novel insights and enable Motif to formulate ingredients with increased precision and impact.

“We are excited to partner with Motif to explore how principles of chemical and molecular engineering can be applied for better understanding of the influence of plant-based ingredients on food rheology, and processing,” said Sharma. “Applying our research on interfacial and rheological properties in this exciting space has the potential to drive new and better outcomes in plant-based products.”

“Measuring and defining rheological properties is an incredibly complex process,” said Ewoldt. “Most of all in food, where every movement of the jaw introduces new variables. We’re looking forward to working with the Motif team to apply our research in new ways, and potentially create more advanced rheological techniques in food that could enable an entirely new set of food design rules.”

Motif will be discussing this work, along with a number of other efforts that aim to unleash the promise of plant-based foods, in more depth at IFT20 Virtual Experience on July 13-15. This latest partnership builds on a period of overall momentum for Motif, on the heels of collaborations with several other academic collaborations, including the University of Queensland, University of Guelph and University of Massachusetts Amherst. Teaming up with the leading food scientists and industry experts is part of Motif’s holistic approach to uncover new insights and solutions to long-standing food challenges, and bring benefits to consumers and the planet.

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