Stay up to date with PPIC news and events.

Schwan's Company will fund PPIC fellowships

Schwan's company

PPIC is thrilled to share that Schwan's Company , PPIC supporter, will be funding several PPIC graduate student fellowships for the next three years. We appreciate Schwan's unwavering support of PPIC and our mission in training the next generation of professionals.

PPIC welcomes Puratos for a facility tour

Puratos Visits PPIC facility

PPIC had a wonderful time hosting Puratos (Bram Pareyt, Ph.D. and Zhixin Wang, Ph.D.) for a visit to our facility. We are thrilled to connect with an international group that is as passionate about innovation in the plant/alternative protein space as we are! We look forward to a fruitful collaboration in the near future.

Director B. Pam Ismail named IFT 2024 Influencer!

IFT 2024 influencers

Meet the 2024 Influencers

Get to know six dynamic, game-changing contributors to food system advancement.

By Julie Bricher, Kelly Hensel, Anna Klainbaum, Mary Ellen Kuhn, Emily Little

March 21, 2024

After making its debut last year, Food Technology’s “food system influencer” feature is back for year two. Its goal is simple: to tell the stories of individuals whose work is having a significant impact on the food system.

The influencers are problem solvers, ground breakers, game changers, innovators. Some have high profiles within the food and beverage realm, others less so. But what they all have in common is a passionate commitment to the work they are doing—work that is valuable, inspirational, and worthy of recognition. 

B. Pam Ismail: Research Collaboration Advocate

Pam Ismail

As the founder and director of the only U.S. research consortium focused on plant proteins, the Plant Protein Innovation Center (PPIC) at the University of Minnesota, Pam Ismail gets to follow her passion for protein every day—just as she has since the very beginning of her career. Today, she brings together industry and researchers to innovate in the space of plant and alternative proteins.

Plant proteins are complex and challenging, she admits, and entirely different from animal proteins. “Whenever I’m presented with a challenge, I get intrigued to pursue and solve the challenge,” says Ismail, who is also a professor in the university’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

She fell in love with the classroom during her postdoc at Purdue University, when she co-taught a graduate-level food proteins class. Research for the sake of knowledge, not just for the sake of profit, is what drew her to the academic route. As she worked her way to becoming a tenured professor, she continued expanding her toolbox in food chemistry, analytical chemistry, and protein knowledge with research on soy and whey proteins, looking at enhancing functionality, reducing allergenicity, structure, and linking molecular structure to function.

But it was a sabbatical in R&D at Cargill in 2015 that was the impetus for founding PPIC. There, she led the effort to establish a new protein research group and was exposed to industry needs within the protein space.

“The more I interacted with Cargill and their customers, the more I realized the need for expanded plant protein research. It was a lightbulb moment when I realized that the tools and experiences I have would allow me to have an impact in this growing space,” she explains.

With the help of an industry-focused steering committee, she founded PPIC in 2018, and it now has 30 industry members from companies across the plant protein value chain. “PPIC is not a center with walls,” she says. “It is an open space where members gather their innovation efforts to benefit from basic research.”

In addition, PPIC supports individual member projects and offers knowledge dissemination platforms for its stakeholders. Bringing competitors together to the same table, they are able to talk at a high level about the knowledge they need to advance and achieve their goals in this space.

“They all come together,” she says, “on a precompetitive level. That is what is fundamentally exciting about what PPIC does.”

“Dr. Ismail has an eye for the benefits of collaboration and is gifted at identifying partnerships across the research realm that propel her projects to the next level,” reflects University of Minnesota PhD Student Brittany Kralik, who nominated Ismail for influencers’ recognition.

Blue Diamond Growers PPIC's newest Associate Member

Blue Diamond Growers

PPIC is excited to announce Blue Diamond Growers as our newest Associate member! Blue Diamond Growers is renowned for their amazing California almonds, and we are excited to collaborate with such a fantastic agricultural cooperative and marketing organization. We look forward to working together and supporting their product development and ingredient innovation opportunities.

Future of Protein Production Chicago upcoming event

The Future of Protein Production Chicago

Supporter/Collaborator Future of Protein Production will be hosting an event this April 24-25 at the McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. The event will focus on accelerating the commercialization of alternative proteins in the Americas. Our one and only B. Pam Ismail will be a speaker at this event, so you don't want to miss it.