Food Product Development Club creates products through competitions

By Megan Bradley, Staff writer

A club at the University works to develop food products used in students’ favorite cafes and dining halls around campus.

Meghan Viebrock, senior in ACES and the co-president of the club, said for students studying food science, product development is one of the more popular career paths many choose to pursue.

There’s a lot more that goes into developing food products than most consumers realize.

“While you’re developing a product, you first have to think about are people actually going to buy this product? Is it something that people are going to want to eat, or even pick off the shelf?” Viebrock said. “Then, you have to think about what kind of flavors people would like, what they’ll think of the ingredients and of shelf life.”

Food Product Development Club helps its members explore this field by providing students funding, workspaces and help from food science professors or older students.

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Food development requires people other than just food scientists, said Rebecca Kowalski, junior in ACES and vice president of the club.

“We want to expand to more majors. Most of the people in the club are food science, but I’m human nutrition and we want to open it up to more people in human nutrition or dietetics and also the chemical engineers and just anyone else interested,” Kowalski said.

To produce a product, Viebrock said club members must first consider any restrictions they have been given, such as avoiding certain allergens. Then, a flavor is decided upon and the ingredients are chosen.

Kowalski said the products are altered multiple times until the final product is something deemed desirable.

The club’s primary activity involves splitting students into small groups to participate in internal and external competitions.

Internal competitions include activities such as creating products for Bevier Café to sell. For example, Kowalski said for one internal dining hall competition, the dining halls reached out to the club and asked for a smoothie to be developed using black currants. She said that was one of her favorite competitions.

Viebrock said she prefers the internal competitions.

“The people who are participating actually get to see their products all the way through as opposed to the external competitions where they send it in and get back a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and that’s the end of it,” Viebrock said.

On the other hand, external competitions are hosted by major companies and ask participating groups to submit proposals of their products so the companies can select winners.

Kowalski said each competition grants a monetary prize for first and second place.

“Every competition is different, and there’s so many of them. We send them the directions of how the product was made and they pick their favorite,” Kowalski said.

This year, the club is participating in three external competitions hosted by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Fiberstar and the National Dairy Council and hopes to do internal work with the University’s dining halls again.

Other than competing, the club also has social events and brings in guest speakers to expose students to all the career paths available to them, including the possibility of branching outside of food science and into different industries such as fragrance.

The Food Product Development Club is open to students in any major but is run by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

“We put students on teams based on their year, experience and internships they’ve had,” Viebrock said. “We like to try to get the freshmen with the seniors for the experience.”

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