Perspectives Online

CALS student teams win for innovative product development

Pictured from the Shiverrs team are Edith Neta, Mallory Kelly, Amanda Stephens, Erica Story, Iryna Sybirtseva and Eric Hinson.
Photo courtesy Amanda Stephens

Two teams of students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences won awards for innovative product development at the national meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists in Anaheim, Calif.

The products — and their names — are unique.

Shiverrs, a yogurt-based frozen mix that transforms into a strawberry-banana smoothie when mixed with milk, won first place in the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association (IFTSA) Product Development competition.

Composed of a blend of ice flakes, powdered frozen ingredients and a low freezing point solution, Shiverrs are pellets that, when shaken with milk, produce a smoothie with the nutritional benefits of one full serving of fruit, added fiber and probiotics.

Shiverrs team members are Gloria Botwe, Katie Fox, Eric Hinson, Mallory Kelly, Maria Listiyana, Mallorye Lovett, Krystal Matthews, Edith Neta, Amanda Stephens, Erica Story and Iryna Sybirtseva.

Squeezzies, a multicolored, multilayered squeezable gel-based snack made with natural fruit and vegetable juice concentrates, earned honorable mention in the new IFTSA Disney “Nutritious Foods for Kids” competition.

The hand-held snacks have no added sugar or color, are a good source of vitamins and are made with a vegetarian-friendly plant-based gelling agent. Squeezzies are shelf-stable and fortified with vitamin C. Each tube contains half a serving of fruit and vegetables.

The Squeezzies team is Miniayah DeBruce, Chellani Hathorn, Prabhat Kumar, Wenji Liu and Iryna Sybirtseva.

The Squeezzies team includes Chellani Hathorn, Miniayah DeBruce, Irnya Sybirtseva, Wenji Liu, and Prabhat Kumar
Photo by Marc Hall
Being chosen to compete was an honor, the students said. Each team was one of only six selected in their respective competitions from colleges and universities throughout the country.

The students worked all year to nail down every detail required to bring these products to market, from microbiology to nutrition chemistry to packaging.

Both teams encountered a number of obstacles along the way.

“Our product had to have a smooth, creamy texture characteristic of freshly-blended smoothies,” said Stephens of the Shiverrs team. “We worked hard to minimize the size of the ice crystals and attain the proper ice-liquid fraction balance in order to produce a consistency that is icy and creamy yet can be readily pulled through a straw.”

At the same time, the Squeezzies team tried out 15 different gelling agents before settling on one. And, since artificial color was out of the question, the team experimented with a number of different fruit and vegetable combinations to achieve a product that was both palatable and attractive.

One of the most difficult challenges for the team was figuring out how to keep the layers of red, yellow and purple gel from blending into each other.

“We had to come up with our own flash-cooling technique,” Squeezzies team member DeBruce said. “To speed up the gelling process and keep the layers separate, we applied a drop of liquid nitrogen.”

In addition to creating and testing healthy products, each team designed thoughtful packaging that made their snacks attractive and easy to use.

Convenience is key, especially with a product designed for children, according to DeBruce. So the Squeezzies team created a tube-like package small enough for little hands to hold. With their target audience in mind, the team also used special ink on the packaging that changes color with different temperatures.

The Shiverrs team also put a lot of work into environmentally friendly product packaging. Targeted toward females ages 20 to 35 who are looking for an indulgent but guilt-free snack, Shiverrs is packaged in pouches that contain frozen pellets, four spoon/straws and a reusable shaker cup.

Both teams competed under the guidance of Dr. Brian Farkas, professor of food engineering and associate department head, and Dr. Tyre Lanier, professor of food science.

— Suzanne Stanard