If you’re like me and love the umami savoriness of meat and seafoods, I’ve got some good news for you: plant-based ingredient engineering unicorn Motif just announced they’ve added the ability to create umami to their toolbox of technologies for plant-based food.
According to this week’s release, Motif’s latest protein “provides the rich umami flavor and mouth-watering aroma associated with beef — all without the animal.” Motif says the new umami technology will be available by the end of this year.
The technique Motif uses to create its umami protein is precision fermentation, the same process used by a number of companies building enabling platforms and ingredients technologies for meat substitutes. Impossible Foods, for examples, uses precision fermentation to create the famous plant-based heme that give its meat that same iron-y flavor you get in real beef.
One interesting aspect of the story not mentioned in the release is how Motif leveraged its relationship with Ginkgo Bioworks, the company it spun out of in 2019, to help build the umami taste technology. In an email, a Motif spokesperson told The Spoon they “were able to use our partnership with Ginkgo to take advantage of their throughput screening and strain development capabilities, which allows us to innovate and scale production rapidly.” It’s clear that, even as one company plans its IPO and the other raises the kind of money that will almost certainly require it to go public, the two companies remain closely intertwined.
Umami wasn’t the only new technology Motif debuted this week. The company also announced it had achieved a new way to give plant-based meat a meat-like texture that “delivers real, meaty chewdown and juiciness.” Unlike the company’s fermentation-derived umami tech, this new meat texture technology “was able to replicate the texture of animal tissue using plant proteins and plant-based carbohydrates” through “advancements in materials science and production.”