Motif FoodWorks sold 2,000 plant-based burgers throughout the US to everyday consumers, foodservice companies, influencers, and more, Leonard said. With the purchase, consumers received four Motif BeefWorks Plant-Based Burger Patties, a Motif spatula, and a recipe book for inspiration, he added.
“We've showcased our product at lots of trade shows and different consumer outlets over the past few years, and the number one question we get is: Where can I buy this?,” Leonard said. “We decided it was a good time to actually say, ‘You know what, you can buy it right here on our website.' And we're going to do this in a limited way to build awareness and understanding of what it is that we do.”
Showing consumers the possibility of Motif FoodWorks ingredients
While Motif FoodWorks might test other DTC launches in the future, the goal isn’t to spin up a consumer brand, Leonard explained. Instead, “the best way to show how great new technology works is by actually making food and showing people what's possible,” he added.
“From our standpoint, we are still focused on being a B2B player. We don't intend to build a consumer brand out of this. This was really our first attempt at getting some direct-to-consumer engagement and really getting the message out about Hemami, Appetex, and the BeefWorks burger, which we will be launching later this year in food service.”
Delivering on texture, taste in plant-based meats
The latest addition to the Motif FoodWorks portfolio is its texture ingredient, Appetex, which became commercially available last month and will roll out as part of a foodservice partnership this summer.
Historically, plant-based products lacked the “juiciness, the springiness, chew-down quality that real meat would have” because meat products have the “whole animal in there,” including cartilage, tendons, and connective tissues, Leonard said. Motif FoodWorks was able to combine naturally existing ingredients to create the same experience with its Appetex product.
“If we put those back into a plant-based meat product, we should see an improvement in texture and that springiness and chewiness and really the desirability. So, we found a way to take naturally existing ingredients, combine them in a new way, and cook them using traditional cooking methods, and we were able to recreate the properties of connective tissue, the same material properties. It turns out that it does make a difference.”
Providing a better sensory experience to grow the market
At the same time Motif FoodWorks is looking to innovate on taste and texture in plant-based meats, the overall US market is showing fresh signs of decline. Plant-based meat sales declined by 1% and unit sales by 8% compared to the prior year, according to SPINS data commissioned by the Good Food Institute and the Plant based Foods Association.
While acknowledging some of the challenges facing the industry, Leonard noted that “it's still early days” for the plant-based market. And to get the US market growing again, food companies need “to the bar on the sensory experience of these products,” which includes paying close attention to the texture and taste, he added.
"That's why we choose to operate in a B2B way because we want to help the whole industry grow. We don't believe that any one company can do this themselves, and so our ingredients can help all branded companies do better ... with their products and get more consumers into the space. Because unless that happens, we're not going to get repeat purchases; we're not going to get the kind of scale that we all really hoped for this industry."