Industry-academia partnership to optimise plant-based protein formulation

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A new industry-academia partnership aims to optimise formulation processes for the production of plant-based proteins.

Motif FoodWorks, a Boston-based animal-free ingredient innovation company, has partnered with the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) to drive efficiencies in plant-based protein formulation processes.

This includes the solubility, stability, colour and other properties critical to the production of successful plant-based products.

The majority of the functionality tests currently performed by food scientists are based on processes that were developed in the fifties and rely on significant sample sizes  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 characterise 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 analysed.

The partnership 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.

“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.”