When Keith Harris and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumnus Whit Jones first crossed paths two years ago, the meeting was anything but ordinary.

Harris, CALS assistant professor of food, bioprocessing and nutrition sciences, and Jones, a 1982 horticultural sciencegraduate and retired Extension agent, had gathered with other scientists, as well as Jones’ business partner and 1987 CALS horticulture alumnus Ron Cottle of Cottle Farms in Faison, to discuss the potential for a new family of muscadine products.

“We were talking, and before I knew it, Whit got out a really high-horsepower blender and proceeded to make smoothies out of whole grapes,” Harris said. “I thought it would taste bitter, but I was pleasantly surprised that when you blend the entire grape, it’s actually very good.”

According to Harris, Jones simply replied, “I know.”

Before retiring from his post in Cooperative Extension, Jones discovered that powdered muscadine nutritional supplements were very effective in relieving his muscle and joint pain.

“After that, I knew the chemicals in the seeds and skin worked,” he said. “So I had the idea to take the whole grape and grind it down, seed and skin and all. I’d like to transform the way people consume muscadines.”

Jones got his hands on a very powerful blender that could pulverize an entire frozen grape. So he froze 250 pounds of grapes from a local grower’s muscadine harvest in late 2009 to test the idea of a muscadine smoothie.

“When I grind these fresh grapes, most people say they like them,” he said. “And they can’t believe that all I’m doing is blending them with water. There is no sugar, nothing else added.”

Muscadines boast high antioxidant properties and have been dubbed a super-food in fighting cancers, diabetes and inflammation. They’re also very high in protein and fiber.

“It’s the perfect food,” Jones said of his smoothie. “It has all of these incredible nutritional benefits and tastes good.”

His crusade to develop a muscadine smoothie gaining steam, Jones turned to Harris for help in early 2010.

After their initial meeting, Harris and his team began brainstorming ways to get the product from farm to market.

“As food scientists, we have to think about everything from how to store the fruit after harvest to the best way to process it into something useful,” Harris said. “Food science is essentially food business. After processing, we also have to investigate packaging, shelf stability, how long the nutrients stick around, the venue for the package and the audience.”