Motif FoodWorks launches heme ingredient and announces new production facility


Dive Brief:

  • Motif FoodWorks’ new Hemami ingredient — a heme protein derived by precision fermentation — is now available for large-scale distribution. Hemami is “no different than the heme protein found in beef,” which gives meat its characteristic umami taste, the company said. It’s simply produced in a different way.  
  • Motif also announced it’s building a new market development center in Northborough, Massachusetts. The 65,000-square-foot facility will feature three pilot plants for fermentation, ingredient and finished product production, and construction is slated to begin this month.
  • Motif, which uses biotechnology to develop ingredients to mimic properties naturally found in meat, dairy and eggs, has had a busy year. The company has forged new research partnerships, closed a blockbuster $226 million funding round, launched its first two ingredients — Hemami and texture enhancer Appetex — and gained exclusive access to technologies that enhance fats in plant-based meat and texture in plant-based cheese.

Dive Insight:

Motif FoodWorks has long teased its Hemami ingredient as one of the first it planned to bring to market. This week’s announcement, coupled with the FDA’s granting of generally recognized as safe status, means the ingredient is ready for wide use. Because Hemami changes the color of foods, a color additive petition for it is currently pending before the FDA, the company said.

The ingredient is a myoglobin protein, which in this case is derived from fermenting yeast. Mike Leonard, Motif’s chief technology officer and senior vice president of research and development, told Food Navigator that Hemami is a different protein than the soy leghemoglobin that Impossible Foods touts as its secret to more meat-like plant-based food.

Hemami was already put to the test this summer at Coolgreens, a small Texas restaurant chain. In a Q&A on Motif’s corporate blog, Coolgreens President and COO Todd Madlener said many customers tried the plant-based burgers with Motif’s ingredients — dubbed “Feel Good Sandwiches” — and insisted that they were meat burgers. Several customers were surveyed, and 93% said they would eat sandwiches featuring Motif’s food tech regularly. More than six in 10 said they would purchase the sandwich again.

Motif leaders say ingredients like Hemami can help bring wider adoption of plant-based food.

“Plant-based foods have the potential to drive a more sustainable future, but that doesn’t matter unless people actually eat them,” Motif FoodWorks CEO Jonathan McIntyre said in the release announcing the ingredient. “Hemami enables a whole new taste and experience level for meat alternatives that a wider group of plant-based and flexitarian consumers will crave.” 

The new market development center is funded through the recent $226 million funding round and will enable pilot-scale production of both Hemami and Appetex. Up to 100 employees will work in the new facility, which is slated to open in the latter half of 2022. ln addition to its fermentation facilities, the new center will also feature food technology, analytical and bioprocessing labs.

In the written statement, McIntyre said that with Motif’s innovation process and drive toward rapid development and scale, it needs to have control over the facilities in which it develops and produces ingredients. And with other new ingredients on the way, as well as fat extrusion and cheese texturing capabilities that have yet to be commercialized, it’s likely that center will be busy from the moment it is completed.

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