BOSTON — Motif FoodWorks is teaming up with researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst to streamline the formulation process for plant-based proteins.
The two-year initiative will focus on developing new ways of characterizing the functional properties of new proteins, including their solubility, stability and color.
Most functionality tests currently performed by food scientists are based on 70-year-old processes, and they tend to rely on significant sample sizes (in the range of 50 to 100 grams) to determine whether a sample demonstrates desired properties. Motif will work with researchers to characterize key properties of food-grade proteins at lower concentrations.
The goal is to develop miniaturized versions of these tests capable of rapidly analyzing small amount of proteins. If successful, rapid screening could speed up the process of scaling promising leads while reducing the risk of pursuing wrong leads during the early stages of the formulation process, Motif said.
“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,” said Stefan Baier, head of food science at Motif FoodWorks. “These characteristics become key pieces in the roadmap to ultimately formulating a protein that will perform the way you need it to.”
Baier will lead the initiative alongside Eric Decker, Julian McClements and Hang Xiao, professors at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst’s food science department.
“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,” Decker said. “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 announced last month it is working to improve the texture of plant-based proteins using in-vitro processing, a new method of assessing mouthfeel qualities developed by researchers at the Univ. of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.