AUSTRALIA – Animal-free ingredient innovation company, Motif FoodWorks, has joined forces with The University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia, to test and identify new formulations to improve the texture of plant-based meat products.

Motif Fooworks said that the research is expected to drive critical innovation in the company’s product pipeline of animal-free ingredients.

Arguably, texture represents one of the biggest sensory gaps between current plant-based meat and their animal-derived counterparts, and the most significant challenge facing brands hoping to win over consumers in today’s crowded market.

Through the partnership with UQ, Motif is set to benefit from insights that can apply to the company’s ingredient discovery process and in turn, help customers build better products that meet the texture expectations of consumers.

Motif’s food science lead, Stefan Baier, will be leading the three-year initiative internally in partnership with top academics in food oral processing and sensory evaluation at UQ.

According to the company, this partnership represents the first time in vitro oral processing will be applied in the category of meat analogs.

“Typically, when formulating new products, food scientists rely solely on in vivo testing, depending on trained sensory panelists to tell them how well a new product simulates the traditional version,” said Baier.

“This process can be expensive, time-consuming and often subjective, since perceptions can vary based on factors like a person’s saliva flow rate and composition.”

“The University of Queensland’s research in oral processing and sensory evaluation is unparalleled, and our work together will provide direct benefit to our customers and to consumers looking for better plant-based options,” said Mike Leonard, CTO at Motif FoodWorks.

“Getting texture right in plant-based foods is critical to consumer acceptance and ultimately, a factor that will set category leaders apart.

“It is Motif’s mission to help our customers close the deltas between their products and the animal-derived experiences consumers love, and we believe the team at UQ will help us get there.”

Working in partnership with top scientists in from UQ: professor Jason Stokes and Dr. Heather Smyth, the collaborative efforts will supplement Motif’s work in formulating ingredients that improve specific aspects of plant-based meat analogs.

Prof. Stokes has been pioneering the in-vitro assessment of food oral processing for the last two decades, and together with Dr. Smyth, has developed critical new methods to assess the mouthfeel qualities of foods and link these back to sensory perception.