Motif FoodWorks partners with UMass

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This research will drive key efficiencies in Motif’s protein formulation process

US based Motif FoodWorks, the animal-free ingredient innovation company has announced a partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst to optimize the process of characterizing functional properties of food proteins, including their solubility, stability, color and other properties critical to the production of successful plant-based products.

This research will drive key efficiencies in Motif’s protein formulation process. The majority of the functionality tests currently performed by food scientists are based on processes that were developed in the 1950s and rely on significant sample sizes — 50 to 100 grams— to determine whether a particular sample demonstrates desired properties. As companies across the food and beverage industries are increasingly looking to expand the scope and sophistication of the plant-based products they have to offer consumers, the processes behind these products need to evolve to ensure continued innovation and growth in the market.

Together, UMass and Motif will work to characterize key properties of food-grade proteins at lower protein concentrations, as well as develop miniaturized versions of these test methods so that small amounts of proteins can be rapidly analyzed. Motif’s partnership with UMass will enable the rapid screening of high quantities of proteins so promising leads can be scaled up efficiently, diminishing the risk of pursuing the wrong leads early on in the formulation process.

Stefan Baier, head of food science at Motif, will lead the two-year initiative in partnership with top academics at the UMass Department of Food Science: Prof. Eric Decker, Prof. Julian McClements, and Prof. Hang Xiao. Together they represent three of the most recognized experts in food science (all are highly-cited scholars), with expertise in lipid oxidation, protein functionality, structural design, natural product, chemistry, bioavailability, and metabolism.

“When it comes to protein functionality, there are certain physical and chemical attributes that are critical to the ultimate success of a plant-based product — things like solubility, or how the protein will emulsify. These characteristics become key pieces in the roadmap to ultimately formulating a protein that will perform the way you need it to,” said Baier.

“Being able to identify these properties at smaller concentrations will help us better select promising leads earlier in the process.”

Mike Leonard, CTO at Motif FoodWorks said, “We are trying to solve very complex problems for our customers — helping them to create plant-based foods that meet consumer expectations — and that work begins at the formulation level.”

“It’s exciting to see our research being used to improve and expedite the processes behind some of the most exciting trends in the food industry. Our partnership with Motif will have a real-world impact on the ability of food scientists to innovate and bring new, viable proteins to the market”, Decker added.

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