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Ginkgo spinout plans expansion as its plant-based food ingredient hits market

A rendering of Motif's 65,000-square-foot facility in Northborough.Motif FoodWorks

Motif FoodWorks, a heavily funded spinout of Ginkgo Bioworks, said this week that its first product, which aims to mimic the taste and smell of meat in plant-based food, is now commercially available.

The Boston-based company is in discussions with potential customers, said chief executive Jonathan McIntyre, who added that Motif’s ingredient could find its way into food products as soon as early next year.

Motif’s customers are not shoppers in grocery stores, but rather food companies that would use the ingredient, called “hemami,” to improve upon or develop new plant-based meat products. McIntyre said hemami has similar properties to the heme protein found in beef, but it was derived from yeast instead of animals.


An image of a Motif burger.Motif

The ingredient can be used with plant-based alternatives to burgers, sausages, chicken, and other meats, he said.

Motif also announced plans to expand into a 65,000-square-foot facility in Northborough during the second half of next year. McIntyre said Motif will maintain its headquarters in the Seaport District, in the same building as Ginkgo, and nearly double its space there to 20,000 square feet.

Motif, which was spun out of synthetic-biology giant Ginkgo in 2018 to break out its food business, has raised $345 million from investors, including a $226 million round in June. McIntyre said Motif could potentially have 20 customers next year that would buy hemami in a liquid form. They would have already worked with Motif on how to use the engineered ingredient.

“You just don’t drop it in and it works,” he said. “It takes anywhere from four months to 15 months to get a new ingredient put in a formula of a product that’s on the market or one that wants to be launched.”

For now, Motif plans to stay behind the scenes, selling ingredients. The next on its list would mimic the texture of meat and improve the stretchiness of plant-based cheese.


But in developing its technology, Motif has to make test-food anyway. McIntyre said Motif is starting to create products based on that process and market them to companies that sell food to restaurants.

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.