Student ingenuity leads to program support endowment in food science

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The financial impact of a food product developed by a team of Penn State food science students will have a much longer shelf life than the product itself, thanks to an anonymous investor who bought the rights to potentially produce it.

An unnamed large company purchased the idea -- called Mooofins -- for $25,000, and the funding will be used to establish the Program Support Endowment for Food Science Students. Available funds from the endowment, which is open for contributions from other individuals and organizations, will be used to support such purposes as product-development and entrepreneurial activities of students, project materials and travel expenses.

Mooofin food science team

The team of students who developed the concept for Mooofins included, from left, Shaina Melnick, Andrew Elder, Kenny Vogel, Anthony Herdzik and Jared Smith. Team members not pictured were Megan Woo and Kelsey Rodgers.

Image: Leah Eder

The concept for Mooofins was developed by seven undergraduate food science majors for the American Dairy Research Institute's 2013 New Product Competition. After winning a preliminary competition, the Penn State team beat out teams from Ohio State and Iowa State universities to win the national contest.

"I'm tremendously impressed by these students, both for their hard work and innovation and for their desire to have the proceeds from their efforts benefit future generations of food science students," said Robert Roberts, head of the Department of Food Science.

The opportunity to take Mooofins from an idea to a product with commercial potential is a very special experience for this group of students, according to the product development team's adviser, Daniel Azzara, Alan R. Warehime Professor of Agribusiness. "It will be a highlight of their resumes that will be noticed by potential employers," he said.

Team members were recent graduates Megan Woo, from San Francisco; Jared Smith, from Lebanon; Kelsey Rogers, from Howard; and Anthony Herdzik, from Rochester, N.Y.; and current seniors Kenny Vogel, from Topsfield, Massachusetts; Shaina Melnick, from Mount Joy; and Andrew Elder, from Bellefonte.

Azzara noted that it is highly unusual for a student-created food product such as this to be commercialized. In fact, he added, the Dairy Research Institute pointed out that no other winner of the competition ever has been considered for commercialization.

The competition tasked students with developing a high-protein, dairy-based breakfast product containing at least 51 percent dairy ingredients. The Penn State team created quiche-like muffins that "reinvent" an underutilized dairy product -- cottage cheese.

Cottage cheese curds are dispersed throughout the Mooofin base and are paired with signature flavors, such as blueberry sausage, maple bacon and bell pepper mushroom.

The team's success in developing a product that's being explored for commercialization by a major company is a testament to the preparation Penn State food science students receive, Azzara said.

"This just reinforces that Penn State food science is one of the best programs in the country and prepares students well for a future in the food industry. In addition to technical strength, the department provides an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation."

Azzara said financial support from the Department of Food Science and the College of Agricultural Sciences enabled the students to participate in the product development contest, and this support helped motivate the students' desire to have the department establish the endowment using the Mooofins licensing proceeds.

In the long run, he explained, the new endowment could make it possible for other students to have the kind of experience that the product development team did.

"They are very excited about being able to give back to the food science program," he said. "They have raised the bar high for anyone considering a donation to the Department of Food Science. The faculty and staff are very proud that they feel this way about the program."

Penn State's alumni and friends are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University's land-grant mission of education, research and service. Private gifts from alumni and friends enrich the experiences of students both in and out of the classroom; expand the research and teaching capacity of our faculty; enhance the University's ability to recruit and retain top students and faculty; and help to ensure that students from every economic background have access to a Penn State education. The University's colleges and campuses are now enlisting the support of alumni and friends to advance a range of unit-specific initiatives.

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Last Updated November 07, 2014