Alt-protein company Motif FoodWorks has raised $226 million in Series B funding. The round was jointly led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board — through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform — and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock.
AiiM Partners, Wittington Ventures, Rethink Food, Rage Capital, and Rellevant Partners also participated alongside existing investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, CPT Capital, General Atlantic, Louis Dreyfus Company, and Viking Global.
Boston-based Motif will use the capital to increase its R&D capabilities, scale and commercialize its plant-based protein tech, and add to its employee roster.
Plant-based meat alternatives gained steady momentum amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumer curiosity experienced a boost and investors piled in to secure a foothold in food’s future. But serious challenges around mouthfeel, flavor, and product formulations remain. Two out of three Americans say they would be willing to eat more plant-based foods instead of animal protein if the options available to them tasted better.
“[The industry is] trying to take things like soy, pea protein, or nuts, and mask or modify those barnyard flavors and smells that are left over from the grains, legumes, and beans,” says Michele Fite, Motif’s chief commercial officer.
Motif’s strategy for tackling these challenges, which leans on precision fermentation and cutting-edge materials science, is “unique,” she tells AFN.
“We have a way of approaching [this] differently than other companies do by unraveling food secrets. That is important because you have to know what is in the food that makes it hard to fix those problems [in the first place],” Fite claims.
“Our approach means we don’t need to modify or mask unpleasant flavors, smells, or textures – which often leaves consumers with a less pleasurable eating experience. We explore how the individual components work together with a focus on the important sensory experience that consumers need.”
The Ginkgo Bioworks spinout also has licensing partnerships with the University of Guelph and ‘alt-fat’ maker Coasun for technologies that create melting and stretching characteristics in plant-based cheeses, and marbling in plant-based meats.
Several other startups are trying to crack the replication of animal fats for alt-protein. California’s Mission Barns raised $24 million earlier this year for its effort to create a lab-grown alternative that mimics animal fat’s umami flavor and rich mouthfeel. Spain’s Cubiq Foods, which says it raised €10 million ($12.1 million) in funding last year, is developing plant-based fats with heightened levels of omega-3.