For plant-based meat companies, successfully imitating the texture of real meat is one of their greatest challenges. Yesterday, Motif FoodWorks, a B2B animal-free ingredient development company, announced it will partner with The University of Queensland in Australia to help companies create better-textured meat alternatives.
Motif FoodWorks develops ingredients for plant-based foods using fermentation technology. It seems that now the company, a spinoff of Ginkgo Bioworks, is focusing on more than just the ingredients themselves, but how they’ll work together to create a realistic faux-burger, steak, etc. The initiative will last for three years.
According to a press release, the company will create new textures through a technique called in vitro processing, which is based on in-lab testing in test tubes, petri dishes, etc. Mike Leonard, CTO at Motif FoodWorks told me that they will explore “a range of relevant technologies and ingredients,” including microbial fermentation, to better “develop an understanding of the fundamental drivers of perception of plant-based meat analogs.” Basically, they’re trying to determine exactly how people experience the texture of meat and how to replicate that experience using non-animal ingredients.
Plenty of other alternative protein companies out there are trying to solve the texture problem. Redefine Meat and Novameat leverage 3D printing to emulate muscle fibers, while companies like Atlast Foods and Prime Roots use mycelium (mushroom roots). Leonard said that Motif would be experimenting with a wide range of technologies to replicate meat’s texture, including some based around their core fermentation technology, though he didn’t say whether it would include 3D printing or mushrooms.
As I’ve covered in my Future Food newsletter (you subscribe, right?), replicating textures is one of the biggest hurdles for companies developing alternative meats. With this partnership, Leonard said that Motif is hoping to “close the critical delta between the sensory experience of texture in meat products and their plant-based analogs.” If they’re serious about helping alternative protein companies on their R&D journey, they’re smart to start factoring texture into the equation in a serious way.