Food ingredients innovator Motif has raised $27.5 million in funding led by global growth equity firm General Atlantic with participation from CPT Capital, and has rebranded as Motif FoodWorks.
The rebrand emphasizes Motif’s plans to become a supplier of innovative ingredients to food innovators with a particular emphasis on its partnership with parent company Ginkgo Bioworks, the microbe manufacturer. Motif spun out of Ginkgo earlier this year, raising a $90 million Series A from big-name investors including Bill Gates and Richard Branson-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures, global commodity trading house Louis Dreyfus Companies, New Zealand daily cooperative Fonterra, and global asset manager Viking Global Investors. Find out more about the relationship in our previous article here.
The company has also formally identified the animal-free sector as its main area of focus.
Motif will use Ginkgo’s fermentation technology to provide food companies with ingredients for alternative protein product lines in the plant-based and meat alternatives space. Its plan is to engineer dozens of proteins derived from dairy, egg, and meat without compromising the functionality, taste, and nutrition of animal-based ingredients. It’s taking the B2B route to market, likely intending to ride the growing wave of startups offering animal-free food products following recent successes from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
With the new capital, Motif hopes to accelerate its product pipeline, identify new academic collaborations across a variety of molecular food science disciplines, scale its science and regulatory staff, and to increase its R&D efforts.
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“Since launching the company we’ve seen an incredible response from the industry; it’s clear that the movement towards animal-free is no passing fad. Food leaders know that to get it right, however, there can be no compromise between taste and values,” said Jon McIntyre, CEO of Motif, wrote in a press release announcing the funding. “Our team of experienced scientists and passionate food lovers are working relentlessly to ensure our products — as well as our brand — deliver on that exciting and critical challenge.”
Perhaps Motif can answer some of the challenges ahead for scaling the plant-based meat industry, and the company also hired a new head of regulatory, government and industry affairs, Janet Collins to take on the increasing number of regulatory headaches facing the space. Half of the states in the US have introduced or passed legislation to prevent plant-based and cell-cultured protein products from being labeled as meat or beef. Alternative protein lobbying group The Good Food Institute filed a legal challenge to Missouri’s bill, which the parties are currently resolving via settlement.
“We did expect some activity, but to be honest it was a surprise to all of us the number of states that came out at once given that it didn’t seem to be that orchestrated, as the bills are all slightly different. The wording is all over the place,” Plant Based Foods Association executive director Michele Simon told Food Navigator USA.
Collins, who has over 30 years of experience in food and biotechnology regulation, likely has her work cut out for her as the USDA and FDA recently agreed to jointly regulate cell-based meat products, which could mean that they will take a unified approach to regulating other forms of animal-derived ingredients.
Motif also made two other new appointments including Julie Post-Smith as director of business development and Morgan Keim as business development manager. The company also announced that Peter Lafer, a vice president at General Atlantic focused on life sciences investments in the firm’s global healthcare sector, will join its board as an observer.
The startup recently partnered with MISTA, an accelerator and incubator program launched in 2018 to help startups and established corporations in the food and beverage sector. Danone, Mars Inc, and Ingredion are founding members of the project.