Food Entrepreneurship Club in Finals for National Dairy Council New Product Competition

Entrepreneurship News Honors and Awards News Student News

Group places in top three in inaugural club event

When we last left the Iowa State University Food Entrepreneurship Club Team (FEC), it was one of six teams competing in the National Dairy Council’s (NDC) New Product Semi-Finals Competition (March).

Still in the process of being formally recognized by the Student Organization Recognition Board (SORB), the small, four-member team already has a storied beginning, as it has officially guaranteed its spot among the top three competitors. The top three placing teams will be revealed coinciding with the first annual Institute of Food Technologies (IFT) event and expo on July 10-13.

Though team members nervously await the formal announcement, the Iowa State team is now able to reveal their product idea that took them this far.

“Combo Puffs” are a bite-sized, gluten-free, high-protein ready-to-eat snack. Inspired by the savory French gougère pastry, these treats come in two flavors: savory and sweet. The savory puffs are small dough bites stuffed with a dill and garlic flavored cheddar cheese, while the sweet flavor features a similar exterior, except stuffed with a young Swiss cheese mixed with condensed and caramelized milk.

This year’s competition asked each group to develop a unique product to match the theme of “Innovative Dairy-Based Products for Gamers.” Guidelines included:

  • Must contain greater than 51% dairy ingredients by weight of the finished product
  • Use any form of the fresh or dry milk, whey, milk fat, milk proteins, cheese, lactose fractions or other dairy ingredients
  • Provide an excellent source of dairy protein (the product should contain 20% or more of the Daily Value per reference amount
  • Meet food labeling and regulatory criteria as specified by the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Be fit for human consumption

After one year’s worth of ideation, research, 10 recipe trials, and production reports, the team is proud to have produced a product that can place in the top three. Given their newness in competition and club experience, as well as the group’s admitted lack of product development experience, being able to place this high is a testament to the team’s ability to work together.

“In terms of feeling, I tend to be a doubter,” said Club Treasurer and team member Karin Cho. “I did not expect to be in the top three because none of us had product develop experience. When we started, I didn’t think we’d get as far as we would. We did put a lot of time into it. I’m very pleased I’ve been able to work with the team members and were dedicated to the project.”

Cho said that the team came up with the idea through bringing together ideas and trying to find a recipe that met the gold standard for the competition rules to form a base to improve upon. In this case, that was increasing the protein content while also creating a mess-free shell to appeal to gamers. Given the wide background of the team (nutritional science, culinary food science, and food science), Cho said that they were able to really function well to ensure the parameters were met, and that they had a competitive product.

“As the club president I’m very proud of our first ever competition being success,” said club president Peter Serrot. “It will be a huge success in growing our club next semester. I’m excited to lead the club next semester and doing the competition next year.”

While their exact place in the competition will remain under wraps for the next few weeks, any spot in the top three nets the team a prize reward. For first place there’s an $8,000 reward; for second, $5,000; and third, $3,000. All money is awarded to the entire team, and in case of Iowa State’s team, the funds will be used to help the club prepare for the next season in terms of materials, travel, and opportunities.