Layoffs at Motif FoodWorks: ‘We’re pivoting our focus to key priorities that we know will return maximum ROI’

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Image credit: Webb Chappell
Image credit: Webb Chappell

Related tags Motif Foodworks heme HEMAMI myoglobin plant-based meat Meat alternatives Plant-based foods

Boston-based foodtech firm Motif FoodWorks – which has raised $345m since spinning off from synthetic biology firm Ginkgo BioWorks in February 2019 – has just engaged in a round of layoffs, FoodNavigator-USA understands.

A spokesperson would not confirm how many people had been laid off at the firm during a recent restructuring, but added: “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.

“As a result, we will tighten our employee base in some areas. Meanwhile, we will invest in our priority areas related to our food-tech and finished products where we’re experiencing strong demand.”

High-impact ingredients for meat and dairy alternatives

Led by CEO Jonathan McIntyre, a former SVP of R&D at PepsiCo, and CTO Dr Mike Leonard (CCO Michele Fite left earlier this year), Motif​ ​currently operates out of a facility in Boston’s Innovation and Design Building and has plans to open a new R&D center in Northborough, MA, by the end of this year.

Its first ingredient, HEMAMI ​myoglobin - a heme-binding protein found in the muscle tissue of cows, which Motif is making via a genetically engineered yeast strain in fermentation tanks - is claimed to deliver the “flavor and aroma of real meat​,” and was launched late last year.

Its second commercial ingredient - a texturizing technology called APPETEX​​ launching later this year – is a hydrogel combining plant-based proteins and carbohydrates that Motif claims can replicate the "springiness, juiciness and bite associated with animal-based connective tissue​.”

Following a collaboration with leading lipids researcher Dr. Alejandro Marangoni, founder of Coasun, Inc, and the University of Guelph in Ontario, Motif​ has also acquired exclusive access to​ technologies designed to address two key challenges in plant-based formulations: 

Prolamin technology​​ (licensed from the University of Guelph): Using corn proteins that enable plant-based cheese to "melt, bubble, and stretch."​​

Extrudable fat technology ​​(acquired from Coasun): Oleogel technology that replicates animal fat, allowing for more authentic fat textures, such as marbling, in plant-based meats.

The spokesperson told us work in both is continuing apace, adding: "Our corn prolamin cheese technology has made some great strides and has received a lot of interest."

Finished products: MoBeef, MoPork, MoChicken

Separately, Motif is also developing finished products utilizing HEMAMI and APPETEX for foodservice providers, distributors, and retailers with private labels, a move that has brought it into conflict with plant-based meat company Impossible Foods, which recently accused Motif of patent infringement​ in a lawsuit described by Motif as a “baseless attempt to stifle competition​.”​​

Motif food works finished products

Finished meat alternative products in development by Motif FoodWorks include Motif MoBeef​ Plant-Based Burger Patties (available now), Motif MoBeef Plant-Based Ground and Motif MoPork​ (arriving later this year) and Motif MoChicken​ (available in 2023).

According to the USPTO, Motif FoodWorks has also filed trademark applications​ for MoMilk, MoCheese, and MoFish.

Image credit: Motif FoodWorks

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