Motif brings together oral biologists at King’s College London and mechanical engineers at Imperial College London to solve for key sensory gaps with consumers

BOSTON, Mass., August 3, 2021 — Motif FoodWorks, the food technology company on a mission to make plant-based food taste better and more nutritious, today announced partnerships with two leading universities – King’s College London (King’s) and Imperial College London – to better understand how the mechanics of eating impact sensory attributes like astringency in plant-based protein formulations. 

Managing astringency, a dry, puckering mouthfeel often associated with foods like coffee, tea and wine, has been a historical challenge in the food industry, particularly for plant-based products made from soybeans, peas, or mycoproteins. However, much of the food industry’s research to date has not accounted for the role of saliva as a variable in taste perception. To address this problem in a new way, Motif brought together world-class experts from disciplines that do not typically collaborate to design new approaches to an old problem. 

“One of the food industry’s long-standing research blind spots is the impact of saliva lubrication on how we perceive taste and texture,” said Stefan Baier, Motif’s Head of Food Science. “For the first time, we’re bringing together oral biology and dental experts at King’s College London with automotive and mechanical engineers at Imperial College London to study the physics of what happens in the mouth during chewing, uncovering new data-driven insights to inform better tasting plant-based food formulations.” 

Much like the role of motor oil in an engine, saliva influences the amount of friction present during chewing, and is a crucial part of an enjoyable eating experience. Researching how saliva interacts with food in the human mouth will enable Motif to develop a new way to measure astringency in plant-based foods, unlocking new opportunities for plant-based products that meet or exceed consumer taste expectations. 

The partnership is supported by both a London Interdisciplinary Doctoral program (LIDo) grant – the largest BBSRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK – and an Imperial SME grant. The research is led by Baier in partnership with Professors Thomas Reddyhoff and Conor Myant at Imperial College London, and Professor Guy Carpenter at King’s College London. The four-year Ph.D. project at King’s will continue through 2025, and the two-year postdoctoral project at Imperial will continue through 2023. 

“So much about the impact of saliva on taste is still unknown, largely because it’s a challenging substance to study in an experimental setting,” said Guy Carpenter, Professor of Oral Biology at King’s College London. “By partnering with Motif and collaborating across different disciplines with the mechanical engineers at Imperial College, we’ll be able to make significant progress in the fundamental science behind what makes eating enjoyable, improving the performance of plant-based foods.”

“Motif’s unique partnership approach to basic scientific research has allowed us to apply lessons learned from our work on the physics of oil in engines to the food science world, uncovering commonalities between fields that have not worked together historically,” said Thomas Reddyhoff, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London. “The collaboration has also strengthened our team’s relationship with King’s College London, paving the way for future cross-discipline research. We’re excited to continue working with Motif to bridge the gap between sensory perception of taste and quantifiable measurement.” 

The dual partnership is part of Motif’s growing network of scientific collaborators working together to unleash the promise of plant-based food. It comes on the heels of an exclusive licensing agreement with the University of Guelph and Coasun, Inc. to improve the texture of plant-based meat and cheese alternatives, as well as ongoing research partnerships with University of Illinois, University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Queensland. In June, Motif announced a historic $226M Series B funding round to bring transformative plant-based food technologies to market. 

About Motif Foodworks

Motif FoodWorks is a food-technology company working to make plant-based foods better tasting, more nutritious and so desirable that people actually crave them. The company’s mission is to unleash the promise of plant-based foods by taking a new, holistic approach to ingredient development that combines science and technology — merged with sensory fundamentals — to reveal totally new answers. By changing our understanding of plant-based food, Motif will enable crave-worthy products that exceed taste and experience expectations, unlocking benefits for people and our planet. For more information, visit

About King’s College London

King’s College London is one of the top 35 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2020/21) and among the oldest in England. King’s has more than 31,000 students (including more than 12,800 postgraduates) from some 150 countries worldwide and some 8,500 staff. 

About Imperial College London

Imperial College London is one of the world’s leading universities. The College’s 20,000 students and 8,000 staff are working to solve the biggest challenges in science, medicine, engineering and business. Imperial is the world’s fifth most international university, according to Times Higher Education, with academic ties to more than 150 countries. Reuters named the College as the UK’s most innovative university because of its exceptional entrepreneurial culture and ties to industry. Imperial staff, students and alumni are working round-the-clock to combat COVID-19. Imperial has nearly two thousand key workers, and is at the forefront of coronavirus epidemiology, virology, vaccine development and diagnostics. More than one thousand

Imperial staff and students are volunteering to support the NHS. 

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