Impossible Foods, the alt meat market leader, has sued Motif Foodworks over accusations that the food tech startup copied its heme technology. Motif Foodworks has disputed the claim, which concerns its debut product; HEMAMI.
The lawsuit states that Motif’s development and commercialization of HEMAMI infringes Impossible Foods’ patent by using the iron-bearing protein molecule heme and making it available for large-scale distribution. Heme is the ingredient that gives Impossible Foods’ alt meats their authentic taste and smell, a key factor in the brand’s global success.
The lawsuit was filed in Delaware federal court yesterday, with Impossible Foods asking for an undisclosed amount of money damages and a court order blocking Motif’s sales of the allegedly infringing burger. A Motif spokesperson stated that the lawsuit was “nothing more than a baseless attempt by Impossible Foods to stifle competition” and vowed to fight the claims, as reported by Reuters.
Boston-based Motif Foodworks announced the launch of HEMAMI following GRAS approval by the FDA in December 2021, marking a major milestone for the plant-based industry as the only commercially available heme ingredient. The company became a major player after it raised $226 million in its 2021 Series B funding round, bringing its total amount up to $345 million.
Impossible Foods meanwhile announced $500 million in its 2021 funding round, with the company now having raised close to $2 billion since its founding in 2011. Until HEMAMI hit the market, heme represented Impossible Foods’ most closely-guarded flavor secret, and the company held exclusive patent rights and knowledge on producing and commercializing it from soybeans.