Motif FoodWorks closes $226M funding round


Dive Brief:

  • Plant-based food technology company Motif Foodworks received $226 million in a Series B funding round. The investment was jointly led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform, and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock. Other investors also participated.
  • Motif plans to use these funds to increase research and development capabilities, scale and commercialize food technologies and expand its facilities and employee base. This funding round more than doubles the total amount of capital Motif has received — adding up to $345 million in all — since the ingredient technology company was spun out of Gingko Bioworks in 2019.
  • This blockbuster funding round is the latest in huge investment hauls by food technology companies. Other businesses to post sizable investments in the last two years include cell-based meat and plant-based egg company Eat Just, plant-based meat maker Impossible Foods and animal-free dairy company Perfect Day.

Dive Insight:

Since its beginning in 2019, Motif FoodWorks has inspired a lot of excitement — and high levels of fundraising — in the food industry. In its first few months of existence, the ingredients company with a mission of using biotechnology to create ingredients to mimic the proteins naturally found in meat, dairy and eggs had raised a total of $117.5 million and attracted top talent from several other CPG companies.

In the last two years, the company has worked hard on several R&D fronts, both internally and in partnership with top research universities. It also opened a state-of-the-art 10,600-square-foot lab and headquarters in Boston in December. From the company’s inception, it said it would release its first products in 2021, meaning that this year’s excitement for Motif FoodWorks could just be the beginning.

A big part of Motif’s goal is to make plant-based eating more desirable by creating ingredients that improve the overall experience. In an interview earlier this year, Motif CEO Jonathan McIntyre explained why.

“What we’re focused on is how do we continue to improve on those experiences, because the consumer has said — especially the mainstream consumer — that, ‘I want to eat more plant-based food, but I don’t like the taste,’ ” he said. “And so if we can help make the product taste significantly better and more nutritious, and do it in a transparent way, I think that’s the biggest way we can touch the consumer.”

The release announcing the funding had no information about the ingredients and technology Motif is working on or specific projects that the money will fund. 

McIntyre said earlier this year the company’s first two ingredients will be a fiber that mimics bits of tendons and ligaments found in traditional meat, and a protein that brings more traditional color and flavor to plant-based meat and distributes more iron. There’s more that might find its way to the market soon. Last month, Motif announced it had exclusive access to technologies to create more authentic fat textures in plant-based meat and ingredients improving the texture of plant-based cheese.

The potential Motif holds to remake the plant-based food sector seems to have inspired its inaugural investment from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board. The public pension plan segment putting money toward Motif is focused on late-stage venture and growth equity investments in companies developing innovative technologies.

Olivia Steedman, senior managing director for the Teachers’ Innovation Platform, praised Motif for working to make plant-based eating more palatable, and in turn benefiting the environment. This isn’t the only food technology funding round to have been led by a sustainability-minded pension fund. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board led the second portion of Perfect Day’s massive funding round last July.

As Motif prepares to make some of the ingredients it has developed available to manufacturers, the company can use some of the funds to add capacity. After all, the plant-based segment is rapidly expanding, with the sector growing 27% last year, according to SPINS data reported by the Plant Based Foods Association and Good Food Institute. Analysts expect more people to reach for plant-based meat, eggs and dairy as time goes on, and through its ingredients and R&D potential, Motif seems poised to help make those predictions a reality.

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