Nuggets, pancakes, cookies among students' ideas for new products made from potatoes
BY ANDREW VOWLES
What's the connection among Peel Nug Potatoes, Triple Chocolaty Marshmallows and Takeables From Granola Cookies? They're all items designed by U of G students in the winter semester for a first-ever competition to develop new foods based on a common ingredient: potatoes.
Five student projects vied for top spot last month in the inaugural contest, which capped the course “Food Product Development” taught by Massimo Marcone, an adjunct professor and technician in the Department of Food Science.
Their group assignment was to take a potato-based product from idea conception to prototype, using equipment and resources in Marcone's lab in the Food Science Building and pilot-testing facilities in the adjacent Guelph Food Technology Centre.
Marcone says a key challenge was to balance the food science side of the project with the marketing benefits typically demanded by the food industry, particularly the kinds of companies represented by the Ontario Potato Board (OPB), which sponsored the contest and helped judge the entries.
“This is very important for our students as they go into industry,” says Marcone.
Besides developing and testing their products, the students had to develop a marketing plan that addressed everything from nutrition and health benefits to consumer acceptance and production cost-effectiveness.
The top prize went to a group of Mexican exchange students for an appetizer of potato nuggets made of pressed potatoes and cheddar cheese, then coated with breading made from waste potato peelings. The other entries were a Japanese vodka-like product made from fermented potato mash, pancakes, and marshmallows and granola-type cookies made with potato starch.
Three of the projects, including the winner, were also entered in this year's Project SOY (Soybean Opportunities for Youth). That annual contest, held to encourage students to develop new uses and markets for soybeans, marked its 10th anniversary this year. Marcone hopes to make “Project Potato” an annual competition as well.
He says potato producers are eager to replicate some of the success of Project SOY. For this year's potato contest, the OPB provided funding for prize money and project budgets; the organization will also sponsor next year's contest.
Vanessa Currie, a plant agriculture technician who helped bring Marcone and the OPB together, says the potato industry saw consumers shy away from the starchy vegetable during the low-carb diet craze.
“This initiative was motivated by the opportunity to try something new and to develop new markets,” says Currie, who tests potato varieties at the Elora Research Station. “The goal was to do something with potatoes and get them some new customers.”
Potatoes are among the five major food crops in the world, along with wheat, rice, soy and corn.
Marcone says the 25 students in this year's class needed little encouragement to pursue their ideas. “They were excited. It was an opportunity to do something innovative.”
University of Guelph | Guelph, Ontario, Canada
| N1G 2W1 | Tel: 519-824-4120
University of Guelph