Three teams of Purdue University students competed for a $10,000 top prize on April 12 at the First Annual Sara Lee Innovation Award competition. The three teams included students from sophomore to graduate level in four departments, including agricultural and biological engineering, foods and nutrition, food science, and hospitality and tourism management. Each team had 45 minutes to present its invention to a panel of judges composed of Sara Lee senior vice president of Research and Development in North America, Heidi Kleinbach-Sauter, as well as two other Sara Lee representatives and four Purdue faculty members.
The qualifying teams have been working on their food inventions since late November, when Sara Lee Food and Beverage announced a partnership with Purdue in what it hopes will be an annual contest.
Products were limited to Sara Lee's current product lines of bakery items, meats, sauces, dressings or coffee. The cooking of each item was completed before the start of the contest and guests were invited to sample the tasty products.
The first team created a Sophisticated Swirl Cheesecake-like item which they described as an all natural, low calorie dessert. The team designed their creation around trends such as health awareness and high quality products with exotic flavors. They were sensitive to health conscious customers looking for convenience products. The cheesecake was compatible with the Sara Lee line, therefore appealing to a great deal of customers from small restaurants to large corporations.
The second team took a much different approach. They targeted kids aged 5-9 years old. Given the growing number of overweight children and the inability to meet daily nutrient needs, the product that was developed was the Twistin’ Tornado Fiber Bread. The goal of the bread was to develop a white and wheat layered bread that provided a good source of fiber. They achieved their goal with 3gm of fiber packed into each serving, at least twice the fiber content of regular white bread.
The final group to present was made up of two students from the Foods and Nutrition department. They designed a bite size, fruit filled, yogurt covered pound cake. Their idea for a shelf stable, convenience food was a good combination of flavor and nutrition. They found that if they used a traditional product base and tapped into the functional foods market, their product could serve as a snack or dessert.
The products were judged based on innovation, originality and potential marketability. The product created by the winning team also could end up on store shelves. Olivia Wood, associate professor of foods and nutrition chaired the Purdue committee overseeing the Innovation Award.
In the end, the Sophisticated Swirl team won the top prize, although all students benefited from this experience. Dr. Heidi Kleinbach from Sara Lee stated, “The presentation of student teams applying for the Sara Lee Innovation Award 2007 was a real highlight in my professional career. It was unbelievably rewarding for me and my Sara Lee colleagues to see how world-class education can result in business applications generated by multifunctional teams showing passion, talent and deep functional excellence in food and food related competencies. What a pleasure to work with these students. The Innovation Award has created tremendous excitement in Sara Lee on future talents and a highly effective partnership with Purdue. Thanks so much for your wonderful support of this initiative.”