New CEO at Motif FoodWorks after recent round of layoffs

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Dr Mike Leonard: 'Motif has developed unique approaches to analyzing, discovering, and designing both plant-based ingredients and foods to better address unmet customer needs and tastes...' Image credit: Elaine Watson
Dr Mike Leonard: 'Motif has developed unique approaches to analyzing, discovering, and designing both plant-based ingredients and foods to better address unmet customer needs and tastes...' Image credit: Elaine Watson

Related tags Motif Foodworks Meat alternatives plant-based meat plant-based Impossible Foods

Boston-based food tech firm Motif FoodWorks has promoted its CTO Dr Michael Leonard to the role of CEO, effective immediately, as current CEO Jonathan McIntyre moves to an advisory role in the company.

Prior to joining Motif in 2019, Leonard held senior roles in R&D and business development at Kraft Heinz, PepsiCo, DuPont Nutrition & Health and IFF, and takes the helm at Motif at a challenging time for the company, which has raised $345m since spinning off from synthetic biology firm Ginkgo BioWorks in February 2019, recently engaged in a round of layoffs​, and became embroiled in a legal spat with Impossible Foods.

A spokesperson would not confirm how many people had been laid off at the firm during a recent restructuring, but told us: “Given​​ ​​the​​ ​​current economic​​ cond​​itions, 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​​ experienc​​ing​​ strong demand​​.”​​

High-impact ingredients for meat and dairy alternatives​​

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​​​.”​​​


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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