The Boston-based synthetic biology company has joined forces with Canadian lipids researcher Alejandro Marangoni to recreate the texture and taste of animal fat in plant-based products
Fatty food in the lab

Motif FoodWorks, the biotech company developing protein ingredients to use in plant-based meat and dairy substitutes, has set sights on fats. The Boston-based company has joined forces with a world-class scientist to explore technologies that can help develop the same texture and taste attributes of animal fat.

Food producers have historically relied on existing ingredients such as coconut oil to replicate the sensory experience of animal-derived fats, but current solutions don’t taste, cook, or interact with other ingredients like animal fats do.

The biotech company believes that recreating the attributes of animal fat has been a missing link for plant-based food developers.

That’s about to change. Motif FoodWorks has secured an exclusive research collaboration and license option with the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, and Dr Alejandro Marangoni, a world-class scientist and authority in the field of fats and oils. Marangoni is Canada Research Chair in Food, Health and Aging at the University of Guelph, and co-founder of food ingredients manufacturer Coasun.

“Creating the right kind of fat structures in plant-based foods is one of the most significant — and exciting — challenges in the category because fat plays such a critical role in what makes some of our favourite food experiences so satisfying,” said Mike Leonard, chief technical officer at Motif FoodWorks.

“The biotech company believes that recreating the attributes of animal fat has been a missing link for plant-based food developers”

The company is set out to assess, over a 12-month period, a set of promising technologies that aim to improve animal-free fats to make consumer favourites like plant-based burgers, sausages and cheese more delicious, including:

  • Replacing saturated fat with an animal-free emulsion system that exhibits the physical properties of saturated fat at room temperature
  • Replicating critical animal fat structures, such as the pockets of fat in meat products that produce marbling
  • And improving the texture of plant-based cheeses, to be more meltable and elastic.

“Understanding how to properly structure fat in plant-based food is mission-critical for the food industry,” said Marangoni. “We are excited to work alongside Motif to determine how some of the newest and most exciting technologies will work in new food products to improve the sensory experience of plant-based meat and dairy on a broader scale.”

This new collaboration reflects Motif’s holistic approach to ingredient innovation, combining science, technology, and proprietary insights in new ways to unravel food’s secrets. The evaluation of these exciting new fat technologies will help Motif further its mission to make plant-based foods better tasting, more nutritious, and crave-able — creating new options that benefit consumers and the planet.

Date published: 10 June 2020

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