For Mitchell, it was a quest that began early in her career in the 1970s and '80s, when she developed Rice Dream rice milk for natural foods company Imagine Foods — an interesting path for the daughter of celebrated food chemist Bill Mitchell, the inventor of Tang, Cool Whip and Pop Rocks.
"I had just gotten my Ph.D., specializing in carbohydrate chemistry," recalls Mitchell. "I was really interested in metabolism and how our bodies handle carbohydrates, and then got entrenched in looking at food from a natural processing perspective."
Although proud of her work at Imagine Foods, Mitchell still felt dissatisfied by not being able to maximize the nutrients in raw ingredients, as many nutritional elements were lost during the extraction process. So, in 2001, she ventured out on her own, buying a research facility in California, where she spent the next five years developing a process to create a plant-based milk that had as much protein as its dairy counterpart.
"We had to make a quantum leap in technology," she says. "Typically, when you make these kinds of milks, you grind everything up and then filter out the liquid. You can get a nice milk with great flavor, but the protein is lost. My goal was to keep that taste, but with all the protein."It sounds like Dr. Mitchell is fairly successful at making nut milks out of her proprietary process (and wanders into the plant now and again.) I'm going to guess the majority of carbohydrate chemists do not end up in relatively industrial careers.