Plant-based food tech company Motif FoodWorks has raised a whopping $226 million in Series B funding, according to an announcement sent to The Spoon. The round was co-led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform, and BlackRock. Rethink Food and existing investors also participated in the round. To date, Motif has raised $345 million.
The company says its new funds will go towards three areas: research and development; scaling and commercializing its food tech; and expanding its number of people and facilities.
Through all of these areas, Motif’s underlying goal is to improve plant-based foods by developing novel food ingredients that lead to better texture, mouthfeel, and taste in products. The company does this via a mix of microbial engineering and precision fermentation.
Motif, which was spun out of bioengineering platform Ginkgo Bioworks, moved into its own facility in the Boston Seaport area last year, where it is focusing on R&D efforts. Meanwhile, just last month, the company announced it had acquired extrudable fat technology from private research firm Coasun to use in mimicking fat textures in plant-based meats. Additionally, Gingko is licensing prolamin technology from the University of Guelph. The prolamin tech will improve the texture of plant-based cheese so that it can melt, bubble, and stretch as easily as its traditional counterpart.
This massive Series B fundraise comes at a time when retail sales of plant-based foods surpassed $7 billion. Even so, there’s room for improvement. Research from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Earth Day Network found that 44 percent of consumers surveyed “don’t like the taste of plant-based foods.” However, two out of three said in the same research that they would be “willing to eat more plant-based foods instead of meat if plant-based foods tasted better than they do today.”
Fermentation technology, sometimes called “the third pillar” of alt protein, is a way to bridge the taste gap between traditional and plant-based meats. Ingredients made with biomass and/or precision fermentation can be combined with plant-based ingredients to achieve the kind of meat and dairy analogues that taste and feel as close to the real thing as possible.