Utah State Food Science Team Wins 2019 IMPA New Dairy Product Award

Meanwhile, last year’s winner licenses concept to major food manufacturer

A team of food science students from Utah State University won the 2019 Idaho Milk Processors Association new product competition Aug. 10. They not only earned some serious bragging rights, but $10,000, too, at IMPA’s annual meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho, for their grand-prize-winning new product idea — Moogets, a delectable meatless chicken nugget substitute made with breaded, deep-fried paneer cheese.

Utah State University food science students won the 2019 Idaho Milk Processors Association new product competition sponsored by Dairy West. Their grand-prize-winning new product idea — a cheese-based meatless chicken nugget alternative called Moogets — earned them serious bragging rights and a $10,000 cash prize for Utah State’s food science program. Utah State students (from left to right) Melissa Marsh, Jung Mun Yang, Savannah Branson, and Ireland Green attended the IMPA 2019 annual conference and accepted their award from Reed’s Dairy president and IMPA new product competition chair Alan Reed (far left), Idaho Milk Products CEO Daragh Maccabee (left), and Glanbia Nutritionals milk procurement director Russ DeKruyf (right). Utah State teammate Sophie Overbeck could not attend the event. (Photo by Connie Scheer of TMN Events for the Idaho Milk Processors Association)

Supported by Dairy West and judged by leading dairy farmers and industry experts, the annual contest challenges universities with strong nutrition and food science programs to create the most promising new food product containing at least 50 percent dairy ingredients. Organizers say it connects bright kids to the dairy industry and provides them with an opportunity to grow and learn and gain leadership skills.

Participating in IMPA’s new product competition can be career defining, too. Last year’s winning team from BYU recently inked a deal to license its Sparkling Scoops carbonated, hard-pack ice cream exclusively to a top U.S.-based multinational consumer foods manufacturer and marketer that’s been a Fortune 500 company since the list’s inception.


“The growing innovation these students bring to bear each year is incredible, and it’s very exciting for our industry,” new product competition chair Alan Reed says. “When we launched the competition 10 years ago, the teams were just suggesting basic, traditional dairy products and a few new flavors. Now we’re seeing true innovation, and collectively I think this is the best group of new products students have entered since we began the competition.”

Dr. Eric Bastian, vice president of industry relations for Dairy West and director of the Western Dairy Center at Utah State, concurs. “We’ve had some standout product concepts in the past, but every submission this year was a really good product,” he says. “Even the fourth-place and fifth-place teams could have won the competition in prior years.”

This year’s grand-prize winner, Utah State University, says its Moogets meatless, cheese-based chicken nuggets are 100 percent vegetarian and a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin B12. The recipe includes vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast to yield a meaty texture. And prior to being dipped in milk and coated with a breadcrumb/whey isolate powder mixture for frying, the nuggets are boiled in a vegetarian chicken broth to ensure uniform chicken flavor.

“Moogets have three times the amount of protein when compared to top vegetarian products already in stores, and also provide a great source of vitamins that vegetarians frequently have deficiencies in,” the Utah State team writes in its final report. “Dairy protein, with the added benefit of extra calcium, gives our product a competitive edge in the growing vegetarian market. The use of whey protein isolate in the coating adds an additional source of high-quality protein.

“Vegetarians have a higher prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to a number of health issues. Moogets provide a unique set of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to fill a need that is not currently being met in the marketplace. The target market for Moogets are vegetarians, as well as consumers looking to reduce or limit their meat intake.”

The Utah State team is comprised of Melissa Marsh, Jung Mun Yang, Ireland Green, Savannah Branson, and Sophie Overbeck. Dave Irish serves as faculty advisor.

Brigham Young University — Idaho, which submitted a nonfat, yogurt-based marshmallow called Yo-Mallow made with natural colors in a variety of popular flavors, captured second place and $5,000.

“Using 56 percent dairy ingredients to produce a marshmallow-type product has resulted in a nutritionally superior product with the same general characteristics of a regular marshmallow,” the BYU-Idaho team writes in its final report. “The Yo-Mallow is intended to be consumed by children and adults as packaged, roasted over a fire, or used as an ingredient in homemade foods and confectionary treats. Compared to a regular marshmallow, the resulting product contains lower sugar, improved protein content, calcium, and other nutrients naturally occurring in yogurt, creating a more nutrient-dense, healthier product.”

The team anticipates parents will feel at ease giving their children a healthier snack option than marshmallows, plus Yo-Mallow can fill a need for lower-sugar adult treats. The aspiring food scientists even speculate their entry’s improved nutritional content could create a new healthier niche in the existing marshmallow market.

BYU-Idaho’s team is comprised of Emily VanDykeOrr, Lauren Howard, Hayden Hoyt, and Trisha Williams Rippy. Steven Winkel and Jeff Hamblin serve as faculty advisors.

The team from the main Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah, took third place and received $3,000 with its Moo-Ribbons dehydrated dairy roll-ups.

Made with Neufchâtel cheese and Greek yogurt for a smooth, creamy texture, Moo-Ribbons are lower in sugar than conceptually similar products currently on the market. The neutral base lends itself to paring with an array of flavors, such as blueberry cheesecake, strawberry yogurt, and “pizza pizzazz,” and its low water activity makes the product shelf-stable at ambient conditions. Plus, the product requires unrolling, which the BYU team suggests should intrigue children, who tend to favor food that is interactive and fun to eat.


“Combining the popularity of string cheese and Fruit Roll-Ups, Moo-Ribbons target consumers of both types of products in a creative manner,” the BYU team writes in its final report. “Those who love string cheese will favor our product because of its dairy content, which is a key part of the USDA MyPlate daily consumption recommendations. Consumers who love Fruit Roll-Ups will grow fond of the product, as it introduces a new and innovative type of ‘roll-up’ snack.”

BYU’s team is comprised of co-captains Ben Woodward and Mackenzie Dunn and teammates Andrea Boza, Samuel Clarke, Sarah Eastman, Sarah Elieson, Jeffrey Rime, and Sydney Szabo. Mike Dunn, Laura Jefferies, and Nathan Stokes serve as faculty advisors.

Palouse Power Soup, a collaborative effort by the University of Idaho and Washington State University that created a whey-based lentil and rice soup, took fourth place and earned $2,000.

Although ingredients include onion, olive oil, rice, lentils, chicken base, cumin, pepper, salt, garlic, paprika, and cayenne, the sweet whey used as its base accounts for 78 percent of the raw ingredients by weight. Boasting a thick, hearty texture and spicy, garlicky flavor, the soup contains no chemical preservatives, is gluten free and shelf-stable at room temperatures and offers more protein and calcium than current products on the market. It also can be marketed as sustainable.

“Sweet whey is a byproduct of cheese manufacturing that is produced in large quantities,” the UI-WSU team explains in its final report. “Palouse Power Soup utilizes whey in liquid form with no additional processing, so the use of whey in this soup consumes a lower amount of energy compared to whey powder manufacturing. Hence, our soup provides a feasible alternative for whey that would typically have been either processed or treated and discarded.”

The team is comprised of WSU students Elizabeth Nalbandian and Paige Kershaw and UI students Fariba Zad Bagher Seighalani, Garrison Cox, Glenn Grout, Jonathan Brumley, Lovepreet Singh, Megan Damele, and Paladugula Moorti Prabhakara. Dr. Helen Joyner serves as faculty advisor.

Garnering fifth place and $1,000, the South Dakota State University team developed Nutrifusion — a 300-calorie meal-replacement beverage that combines quality protein from milk protein concentrate with sweet whey, soy, and 12 essential vitamins and minerals for a balanced meal. Best enjoyed when chilled, Nutrifusion’s three flavors — Coffee Dawn, Chocolate Delight, and Berry Blast — can be enjoyed by people who are lactose intolerant, because the lactose present is hydrolyzed using lactase in the production process.

“A key focus behind the Nutrifusion product was to develop a new product category that utilizes whey byproduct to extract soy protein,” the SDSU team writes in its final report. “When compared to a milk-based or soy-based product alone, Nutrifusion — a blend of dairy and soy — has increased nutritional profiles, along with a significant reduction in ingredient costs.”

SDSU’s team is comprised of Achyut Mishra, Shayanti Minj, Pratishtha Verma, and Shouyun Cheng. Lloyd Metzger serves as faculty advisor.

IMPA is a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote the Idaho dairy industry, cooperate with all organizations that work to advance and develop it, hold annual conferences focusing on subjects relative to the processing of milk and milk products, and act in unison in matters affecting the welfare of all dairy interests. Now in its 93rd year, IMPA amended its bylaws at its 2019 annual conference to bring Utah processors into the fold. Visit IMPA.us for more details.

Dairy West is a regional dairy promotion organization established in 2017 to represent dairy farmers, processors, and supply chain partners in Idaho and Utah. A Qualified Program regulated by the USDA National Dairy Promotion & Research Board, the 501(c)(6) organization raises awareness of the importance of dairy farming, promotes the health and nutritional benefits of dairy foods, and encourages global demand for Idaho and Western U.S. dairy foods through coordinated marketing and communications efforts, nutrition counseling, and research programs. Visit DairyWest.com for more details.

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