Scott Murphy AVG Blog April 1, 2020

How Motif FoodWorks is Changing Sustainable Protein

A team of industry veterans is developing the next generation of plant-based foods.

How Motif FoodWorks is Changing Sustainable Protein

April 1, 2020 | Scott Murphy

Alternative protein is one of the fastest-growing segments of the food industry. A study from Meticulous Research projects that plant-based, lab-grown, and other non-traditional protein will grow into a $17.9 billion industry by 2025. 

This market growth has been largely driven by demand for environmentally sustainable and healthier alternatives to animal-based foods. Naturally, the problem facing early developers is creating food that aligns with these principles while convincing meat lovers to put down their steak knives. 

Motif FoodWorks, an AVG portfolio company, has enlisted a team of industry veterans to solve this challenge. The company’s cutting-edge technology synthesizes ingredients to create healthy, plant-based foods, without sacrificing taste or sustainability. 

Alumni Ventures Group accessed a deal with Motif through a direct relationship between the CEO and The Yard Ventures, AVG’s fund for the Harvard community. AVG and The Yard deployed capital in a round led by $35 billion PE firm General Atlantic, with participation from AVG’s Castor Ventures for the MIT community, Towerview Ventures for the Duke community, and the Total Access Fund.

Plant-Based Engineering

Motif spun out of Boston-based tech unicorn Ginkgo Bioworks, recently valued at $4 billion. The company has leveraged significant progress made within Ginkgo to test ingredient candidates for developing alternative proteins. 

This is an exhaustive process aimed at understanding the properties and sensory experiences we enjoy about meat and other animal products. Motif conducts a thorough analysis of each potential ingredient to detect the underlying components and find plant-based equivalents.

If the perfect parallel can’t be found in the wild, Motif uses fermentation and select microbes to engineer a more accurate flavor profile. In the process, Motif creates more efficient, predictable, and cost-effective ingredients. The company’s product pipeline includes meat substitutes, milk-free dairy, and other plant-based protein alternatives.  

Experienced Industry Leadership

Motif’s leadership team of food and biotech experts is led by CEO Jonathan McIntyre, a former executive at PepsiCo with 25 years of experience in life sciences and consumer products. The team also includes several former Ginkgo employees with significant expertise in metabolic engineering.

Ginkgo will remain a development partner and provide its own strategic relationships to aid in Motif’s development. Members of Motif’s board include Ginkgo CEO and Co-Founder Jason Kelly and Chris Rivest of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion fund established by Bill Gates to address the world’s largest sustainability issues.

Motif has garnered significant interest in a rapidly growing field of alternative protein producers, raising $90 million across two rounds in 2019. Along with its initial focus on proteins, Motif is already working on a long-term pipeline that includes carbohydrates, fibers, and more. 

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