This month, the The NC Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL) officially opened in North Carolina as a 16,000-square foot research and development facility focused entirely on plant-based foods. The facility will support a variety of companies—from established multinational brands to startups to equipment manufacturers—in their endeavors to develop plant-based products in North Carolina, a state where 17 percent of all jobs are in agriculture or agribusiness. “We are focused on plant-based foods and innovation in that space because it’s a space that’s growing very rapidly. People are looking to live longer [and] eat healthier, and [a plant-based diet] is one way they know they can do that,” NCFIL Executive Director Bill Aimitus said. “There has been a lot of publicity around the positive effects of eating a plant-based diet and people are taking that to heart and now realize that plants, fruits, and vegetables are going to help sustain their life for a longer period of time.” The idea for NCFIL came out of the state’s Food Manufacturing Task Force which challenged 35 leaders to identify key economic opportunities in North Carolina’s agricultural sector. In July, Liz Specht—senior scientist at food nonprofit Good Food Institute—identified key factors necessary in reducing the cost of plant-based products such as those made by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, including more efficient manufacturing facilities and optimization of raw plant-based ingredients, services that NCFIL aims to provide.
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