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Sweet Science

Food Science students design and produce a chocolate bar

Mizzou Crunch is handmade. Only 1,000 bars are made at a time.

Mizzou Crunch joins Tiger Stripe Ice Cream and products from the Mizzou Meat Market.

It’s crunch time at Mizzou – not football or final exams, but chocolate.

This week Mizzou Crunch, a chocolate bar designed by a team of University of Missouri food science students, goes on sale. The creation is a real world experience for the students – taking a project from idea in the classroom to salable product and checking off all of the science, business, marketing and legal aspects in between.

Azlin Mustapha, associate professor of food science at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, organized the team of five students. She collaborated with Alan “Patric” McClure of Patric Chocolate of Columbia, Mo. to bring the bar to market.

Mustapha said the project originated as a way to give talented students a unique and hands-on experience outside of the classroom. Partnering with a successful local business is a great way, she said, for students to see first-hand what is needed to develop a product and successfully bring it to store shelves. This exposed the students not only to the chemistry and food processing studied in class, but to consumer preferences, legal and safety issues, cost containment, advertising and marketing, and working in a diverse team.

A Unique Addition to a Resume

Kayla Hauck, a food science junior from Columbia who plans a product development career, said the experience of creating Mizzou Crunch was an irreplaceable experience. “This was the ideal example of brainstorming, designing, collaborating, changing, testing and prototyping a product,” she said. “It will be a tremendous boost to my career to say I’ve already helped bring a product to market.”

Alex Stokowski, a food science senior from Aurora, Ill., and Zico Jap, a food science senior from Indonesia, agreed that they have a more sophisticated view of what makes a product successful. “I look at products on the store shelf now and realize what had to happen for them to get there,” Stokowski said.

Mustapha said the students had to adapt from theoretical concepts about product development to a real world situation where success is measured by profit and loss. “They couldn’t voice an opinion without justification or facts,” she pointed out. “They had to bring a deep knowledge of their proposals, present them succinctly and with passion, and be able to withstand dynamic and intense questioning.”

Mustapha said the students had to delve deeply into what makes a niche product successful. “We wanted a product that had a strong Mizzou connection – what does that mean?” she said. “It needed to be a premium product – what does that mean? What does that mean in the Midwest, or New York or in Asia? How should the packaging reflect the experience of eating the bar?”

This was McClure’s first experience at working with students. He said he was surprised and pleased by their enthusiasm, and willingness to learn and throw out new ideas.

Read the rest at CAFNRnews >>