The best part of being a food science lecturer is developing students’ skills. Through lectures and practical’s, teamwork and learning they develop a good grasp of sustainability and consumer needs. I run a food product development module in the MSc Food Science degree at London Metropolitan University. This challenges students to think as commercial food creatives.
As part of their coursework, students typically spend eight weeks in a team working on a new food product. After that, they can then choose to face a tougher challenge. My student teams won through to the finals of a key student food competition three years in a row.
Developing an eco -friendly new food idea
The Ecotrophelia UK competition originates in Europe. It challenges teams of students to develop an innovative, eco-friendly food or drink product. The panel of industry ‘dragons’ then receive proposals. The judges then select from twenty or more entries to create a shortlist of five teams.
The UK food and drink research organisation, Campden BRI, organises the UK heat of this Europe-wide competition. They work in conjunction with the Institute of Food Science & Technology.
The ‘dragons’ are typically senior food experts from across the industry including major food producers, retailers, Food Manufacture magazine, Institute of Food Science and Technology and Campden BRI.
The students design the concept and produce technical specifications. They also do nutritional analysis and design the packaging for their products.
The competition has more teams each year competing for a place in the final, plus a slice of the £3,500 prize fund. The food expert judges carefully review the initial entrants before picking the final shortlisted five.
In 2016, 2017 and the following year, students from London Metropolitan University were shortlisted. This was from all the entrants from universities in the UK.
The first group in 2016 reached the finals with their Apeel snack bar. Ingredients included whole nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetable peels drizzled with dark chocolate. They used cocoa waste provided by Hotel Chocolate.
In 2017 students won bronze with their delicious Windfall Fruit Jelly. Making these natural jelly desserts without gelatine made them suitable for vegans. Using fruit normally wasted, plus fruit juice, no added sugar or preservatives was the goal.
The next year students won the London Metropolitan Big Idea Challenge Creative category. Then they went on to win silver at Ecotrophelia. This was with ‘Fabamallow,’ a vegan chocolate-covered marshmallow.
Following this, Bertrand Emond of Campden BRI said, “It’s fantastic to see so many young people engage with this competition. They put forward such innovative products.”
Finally finding out who is the winner is one of the highlights for students invited to attend the Campden BRI day for the food industry.