Introducing the NC Food Innovation Lab

One corner of the Centennial Gateway against a cloud-filled sky

The North Carolina Food Processing Innovation Center, a soon-to-be hub for plant-based food science and manufacturing advancement, is undergoing some change.

For starters, a new name: the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab.

According to Mario Ferruzzi, a professor in the NC State Plants for Human Health Institute and leader in the development of the center, the moniker speaks to its makeup.

“We anticipate having a product development lab as well as a small quality lab,” he says. “This will allow for concept development and product testing before scaling up.”

The pilot labs will be multifunctional but have three main areas that allow for:

  • fruit, vegetable or plant processing (think apples to applesauce);
  • GMP processing space for thermal and non-thermal processing of products that were prepped in part one and packaged for human consumption; and
  • extraction and experimental plant for plant ingredient technologies.

“We want this to become the place for innovation in the plant food space, and applied research will drive that,” Ferruzzi says. “The new name speaks to our hope for this project … that is, real innovation in the food space through public-private/academic-industry partnerships.”

Also new? Director Bill Aimutis, an R&D expert with more than 30 years of experience in corporate and academic settings.

“This center will provide unique food processing capabilities for both entrepreneurial and established companies to more rapidly launch new consumer products,” Aimutis says. “It will also serve as a unique real-time food processing facility to validate new processes and equipment being developed.”

Headquartered at the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis, the 15,000-square-foot North Carolina Food Innovation Lab will open its doors in 2019.

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