Ingredients company Motif FoodWorks has partnered with two universities in a project aimed at improving the texture of plant-based foods. By collaborating with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Motif hopes to gain a better understanding of the rheological properties of plant-based foods. Researching the way these foods break down under conditions such as chewing could help deliver improvements in the texture and mouthfeel of plant-based meat and dairy. This approach is expected to enable greater precision in identifying ‘sensory gaps’ and therefore in developing ingredients and products that deliver a better eating experience. “Texture is a critical piece of the puzzle in plant-based food — and consumers who are open to trying plant-based foods will only return to them if the veggie burger breaks down into a juicy bite with every chew, or their vegan yogurt is silky smooth,” said Stefan Baier, Motif’s lead for food science. “To get these textures right in plant-based foods, we need to continue to evolve the way we approach food design, and that means looking at every single element that goes into the eating experience. “Our research with UIC and UIUC aims to apply advanced rheological techniques to plant-based food formulation in novel ways that could uncover critically missed insights and unlock unprecedented possibilities for the texture of plant-based foods.” The cross-disciplinary project will be led by Baier in partnership with UIC professor Vivek Sharma and UIUC professor Randy Ewoldt. The two-year initiative will research advanced rheological techniques from the fields of mechanical and chemical engineering and determine how they can be applied to the plant-based category. “We are excited to partner with Motif to explore how principles of chemical and molecular engineering can be applied for better understanding of the influence of plant-based ingredients on food rheology, and processing,” said Sharma.