Animal-free ingredients innovator and top researchers in food science aim to improve precision, efficiency of functional property testing in food proteins

BOSTON, Mass., Jan. 30, 2020 – Motif FoodWorks, the animal-free ingredient innovation company, today 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.”“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,” said Mike Leonard, CTO at Motif FoodWorks. “Our partnership with UMass will help make a critical part of Motif’s process more efficient, optimizing our ability to identify and scale promising protein leads and ultimately enabling us to provide better ingredients to our customers, faster.” “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,” said Decker. “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.”


Motif FoodWorks is an ingredients innovation company helping to make plant-based food better tasting and more nutritious with animal-free ingredients and deep food science expertise. Partnering with food and nutrition companies of all sizes, Motif aims to close the gap between the food people love to eat with the food they feel good about choosing. For more information, visit


UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally-ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The university sits on nearly 1,450 acres in the scenic Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, and offers a rich cultural environment in a bucolic setting close to major urban centers. Food science as a formal academic discipline began at UMass Amherst in 1918. More than a century later, it remains one of the world’s preeminent food science programs, with the top-ranking Ph.D. research program in the U.S., according to the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. For more information, visit

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Matt Roszell