Rose-colored flavoring added precisely drop by drop. Probiotic powder weighed to the exact millionth organism. Who would have known you’d need classes in statistics to make ice cream?

A WSU food product development team studied data trends and much more to take fifth place out of 23 entries in the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association Product Development Competition which was held in Chicago July 29-30. Their creation, “Naturaleza’s Delights,” is a unique combination of all-natural, lowfat, probiotic ice cream packaged as a single-serve sundae. Their flavors are distinctive too – Gourmet Rose and Chai Tea — each served with a complementary container of low-fat toppings.

Led by advisor Stephanie Clark, associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, the team of five graduate and undergraduate food scientists devoted an entire year of extracurricular time on the project to gain practical experience developing food products from concept to consumer. Making up the team are Jennifer Brown, Joe Stout, Yu Wang, Pei-Chun Chen and Maria Rosales Soto.

 
“They did very well at the finals (oral presentation, poster display and product tasting with judges),” said Clark. “A judge told me that the top five places were within just single points of one another – each of the top five teams was placed as first by one judge. They loved our ice creams. It was a close race and WSU performed well.”

 

Brown, team leader and graduate student in FSHN, called the experience challenging and a lot of fun. “We had to incorporate everything we learned in undergraduate and graduate school and put it into one project,” she said.

Not only is it fun, but it gives the students opportunities to network for job offers at the competition – one of the largest trade shows in the nation. Each year, over 20,000 people attend the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting — giving great visibility to the students’ products and the chance that a company, such as Ben and Jerry’s, may want to buy the rights for it from WSU.

Getting there is not easy. At least 23 colleges and universities across the country enter preliminary proposals in the contest annually. Extensive research is needed to develop and write the proposal. “The students can’t fake it,” said Clark. “They have to have the data — the students are out there doing market research and sensory reports — and they have to show how they have overcome challenges.”

The all-natural Naturaleza’s Delight is made from cream, milk, egg yolks, honey, nonfat dry milk, sugar, guar gum, probiotic bacteria, flavorings and colorings. And yes, guar gum is a natural product — made from guar seeds, it is used as a food thickener something like cornstarch. The probiotic bacteria are added for intestinal health and include strains — primarily Lactobacillus rhamnosus — known to improve immune function as well as help decrease production of carcinogenic compounds by other intestinal bacteria.

The WSU team competed against five other schools including Michigan State University (“Chicken Noodle Bites” – first place), Iowa State University (“French Sticks” – sixth place), Chapman University (“Pizza Puzzle” – fourth place), University of Minnesota (“Tres Jelee” – third place) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (“Kudamushi”- second place).

New WSU product development teams will be forming in August. Undergraduate and graduate students from any discipline are invited to join. No course credits are given for the project — but thanks to contest winnings, donations and departmental funds, students usually incur no out-of-pocket expenses.

 
 
 
 
Jennifer Brown pours milk into the pasteurizing machine.

 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The ice cream base must be pasteurized at 176 degrees F (80 degrees C) for 25 seconds to kill germs.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The food product development team confers about their ice cream recipe. Advisor, Stephanie Clark, in red, looks on.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pei-Chun Chen pours ice cream base from the pasteurizer into a milk bucket.

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
MariaRosales Soto carefully pipettes chai tea flavoring into the ice cream base.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Theteam stands in front of the homogenizer which breaks fat globules into tiny particles for smooth mixing with milk.

After homogenization, the ice cream is aged 4 hours and then softfrozen in a Sweden Freezer. Soto and Clark fill sundae containers with Chai Tea ice cream.

 
 
The team tries out their Naturaleza’s Delights creation.