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Food Science students taste sweet product success

The Erupt-a-Cake product development team.
PULLMAN – Two student food product development teams from the Washington State University and University of Idaho School of Food Science won awards at the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association competition in Anaheim last week. Competing against product development teams from the U.S., the two teams won third place awards.
In the first ever “Developing Solutions for Developing Countries” category, Ph.D. student Babu Chinnasamy and his teammates won with Tu Mazi, a single-serve 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.
In an innovative effort to grow young people’s enthusiasm about science, Yukiko Sakai’s team won with 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.” All the ingredients are safe for children to work with and eat.
“We’ve really put WSU and the UI on the map in terms of product development,” said associate professor of food science Stephanie Clark. “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!”
“There’s a lot of innovation going on at WSU and the UI,” said Clark. “Students who go through our food science 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 wrote 20-page final reports, summarizing all nutritional, marketing, sensory, shelf life, safety and processing elements of the product. During the competition in Anaheim, team members participated in oral presentations andposter sessions and answered questions posed by judges and Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting attendees from around the world. Judges also completed 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.
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 five times. For more information, please visit
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