TOP’D polenta based snack bars named winners of AVA and University College Birmingham’s Culinary Product Development Challenge
Representatives from across the vending sector joined a panel including senior representatives from Mars Drinks and Unilever on Tuesday (15 December) to select the winners of the annual Culinary Product Development Challenge organised by the Automatic Vending Association (AVA) and University College Birmingham (UCB).
BCU College of Food students have been taking part in a ‘Culinary Product Development’ module that is the result of an ongoing partnership between the AVA and UCB.
54 final year Culinary Arts Management students, working in teams of six, were tasked over 12 weeks with developing a new healthier choice vending product that demonstrated creativity with novel ingredients, while ensuring it was wheat-free and contained less than 400 calories per portion.
Teams had to name and package their products displaying all the information required on a pre-packed product according to article nine of the Food Information to Consumers Regulation 1169/2011 EC. A bespoke advertising campaign also had to be presented to support the product’s launch.
The competition, which is in its third year, is an effective career launch-pad for students, enabling them to gather real life product development experience working with seasoned industry experts.
The TOP’D team produced their tasty product using gluten-free polenta grains to create a crunchy shortbread base which is topped with a range of British dessert-inspired flavours – a concept which led to the idea for their team name – TOP’D. The flavours available were Banoffee Pie, Eton Mess, Cherry Bakewell, Rhubarb and Custard, Apple Crumble and Lemon Meringue. The product also included a ‘Save the Honey Bee’ campaign message on the packaging illustrating that the team had considered a worthwhile cause to support through the production of the bars. Students Sarah Dale, Chanzeb Kan, Katie Lewis, Megan Lyke, Eleny Minto and Sam Sines made up the successful TOP’D team receiving a £1,000 prize cheque from project sponsor Unilever.
Winning team member Katie Lewis said: “We’ve worked so hard over the past 12 weeks and learnt so much and it’s great to know that the hard work has paid off. The team were commended for their professionalism and level of knowledge in addition to producing what the judges felt was the best overall package and most coherent concept, in addition to tasting superb.”
AVA Chief Executive Jonathan Hart said the quality of entries was exceptional this year: “The standard was unbelievably high at this year’s challenge and the creativity on show was mind-blowing – all of the students deserve credit for their hard work and ingenuity. TOP’D was out in front for many of the judging panel given its excellent packaging, good product taste and the level of detail and I congratulate the team on their win”
Bernhard Schumacher, Module Leader for Culinary Product Development at UCB, said: “We are extremely proud of all the teams. The level of professionalism and culinary talent our students displayed was incredible. This live project is focused on creativity, collaborative learning and attention to detail.’’
Steve Collins, Membership Services Manager at the AVA and a mentor for the project, said: “TOP’D really stood out for us and it was clear that the team had done extensive research, including testing the product from a height to ensure it was suitable for vending. The level of culinary skills displayed were also very good and the win was well deserved.”
Multinational consumer goods company Unilever kindly provided the prize fund and sponsored the event.
Judges at this year’s challenge were:
- Tim Franklyn Hays – head of culinary team at Unilever Food Solutions
- Roger Williams – managing director at Coinadrink
- Jonathan Hart – chief executive of the AVA
- Neil Thomas – national sales manager at Selecta
- Dave Ward – chairman of the AVA and managing director of N & W Global Vending
- Martyn Sylvester – Mars Confectionery
- Mike Saltmarsh – Inglehurst Food