The Washington State University and University of Idaho School of Food Science has two food product development teams competing in the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association Product Development competition finals this summer. The food science students will compete against other product development teams from the U.S., Indonesia, the Netherlands and South Africa in Anaheim in June.
The two teams are not competing against each other, as they are proceeding to the finals in two different product development categories, as one of six finalists in their respective categories. The teams are advised by associate professor of food science Stephanie Clark.
“We’ve really put WSU and the UI on the map in terms of product development,” Clark said. “At IFT, we’re competing not just nationally, but internationally. Our students have been very successful in the past 11 years, having gone to the IFT final six times in 10 years. That’s impressive!”
In an innovative effort to get young people enthusiastic about science, one team, led by junior food science major, Yukiko Sakai, has developed Erupt-a-Cake. This all-natural, ready-to-bake chocolate cake sports an erupting volcano and gummy dinosaurs.
“The target audience for Erupt-a-Cake is ‘tweens’ aged 8 – 12 years old,” said Sakai. “The kids make the cake and learn some science by combining an acid and a base to create the reaction that makes the volcano erupt.” While the final formulation of the product is still under wraps, all the ingredients are safe for children to work with and eat.
In the first ever “Developing Solutions for Developing Countries” category, Ph.D. student Babu Chinnasamy and his teammates are competing with Tu Mazi, a mango-flavored probiotic milk powder. Tu Mazi, Chinnasamy said, is designed to utilize the highly seasonal milk supply in Kenya in a way that ensures a nutritious and economy-stabilizing source of food in times of drought. By using an innovative dehydrating technology, milk and mangoes, abundant during Kenya’s rainy season, are powdered in a way that preserves probiotic bacteria so that the powder can be reconstituted with filtered water when supplies of milk and fruit run low.
Probiotics, some research suggests, have human health benefitting properties.
“There’s a lot of innovation going on at WSU and the UI,” said Clark. “Students who go through our program are gaining all the skills they need to take a product from concept to consumer. Going to the IFT finals again really underscores the strength of that preparation.”
As part of the finals, the teams must write a 20-page final report, which summarizes all nutritional, marketing, sensory, shelf life, safety and processing elements of the product. During the competition in Anaheim, team members will participate in oral presentations, poster sessions, and answer questions posed by judges and Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting attendees from around the world. Judges will also complete a sensory evaluation of the products developed by the students. Professional food scientists involved in product development at a variety of companies serve as judges.
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WSU and UI students have won numerous awards in the past ten years for food product development and, since 2002, have competed in the IFT Student Association Product Development finals four times.
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