Boston-based food-tech startup Motif Foodworks announced Wednesday it raised a whopping $226 million Series B, which it will use to accelerate the development and commercialization of its plant-based meat and dairy products.
The round was co-led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform, and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, bringing Motif’s total funding raised to $345 million.
Plant-based food is certainly having its moment right now. The market grew by more than 25 percent in 2020 alone, surpassing $7 billion in sales, and popular companies like Impossible Foods, Simulate, and LIVEKINDLY Collective have pulled in big rounds of funding to support a surge in demand.
Despite all this growth, though, Motif’s Chief Commercial Officer Michele Fite says that the majority of American consumers say they still think plant-based products could taste better.
“Plant-based foods have the potential to drive a more sustainable future, but that doesn’t matter unless people actually eat them,” Fite told Built In via email. “Industry leaders are recognizing that, in order to unlock the next stage of growth, we need to invest in understanding the fundamental science behind the taste and texture of plant-based foods.”
That’s where Motif comes in. The company takes a pretty granular approach to food, studying the physics and behaviors of food to better understand how people experience it and what makes it enjoyable. Then, by combining its technology with precision fermentation, it says it can make plant-based meats and dairy products that look and behave like the real thing — like meat that bleeds or cheese that can melt, bubble and stretch.
Motif was spun out of Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based bioengineering firm that went public via SPAC last month, in 2019. Since then, it opened a new lab in Seaport early last year, and recently entered into partnerships with the University of Guelph and private research firm Coasun to create healthier, more realistic meat and cheese products. The company currently has about 35 employees, and Fite says it will likely hire 50 more by the end of this year.
Looking ahead, it seems that the best is yet to come for Motif and its plant-based foods, and Fite says the industry as a whole is “turning an exciting corner.”
“As consumer interest in plant-based options continues to rise, the industry has truly stepped up its innovation game to bring better-tasting options to the table,” Fite said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas emerge next as we continue to look beyond old-fashioned food science techniques and change the way we approach creating better-tasting plant-based foods.”