UCB students take part in AVA's 2014 'Culinary Product Development Challenge'

January 2014

Final-year Culinary Arts Management students provided an insight into the future of vending machine food for a panel of industry experts.

Six teams of six students were challenged to provide tasty and innovative new products in a partnership with the Automatic Vending Association.

As well as being commercially viable, the snacks had to meet a number of strict criteria, including not exceeding 250 calories and being suitable for ambient storage.

Students had to come up with an original product with a fictional brand name and a creative marketing strategy. They also had to produce eye-catching, environmentally-friendly packaging and supporting promotional material at a simulated trade exhibition in the university’s Brasserie restaurant.

Food trends, healthy eating habits and allergies had to be taken into consideration and all the products had to be gluten-free, in order to appeal to the widest possible customer base.

The product development challenge was overseen by UCB chef lecturer Bernhard Schumacher, module leader for the BA (Hons) Culinary Arts Management degree, who said the learning process had given students invaluable industry experience and heightened their credentials among future employers.

The UK food vending industry is worth £1.65 billion a year and there is a constant demand for new products that satisfy changing lifestyles, tastes and dietary needs.

It is the second year UCB has team up with the Automatic Vending Association for the hands-on project and the organisation’s chief executive, John Hilder, praised the work of the students.

Mr Hilder said: “This is the chefs of tomorrow leading the way for the vending machine industry of today.

“The vending machine is what you put in it. We have to educate the public, as they demand more and more healthy food, that there is a way of providing it.”

Mr Hilder said it made sense “conceptually, morally and intellectually” to engage students in developing the next generation of vending products.

He said: “The products they have come up with in 13 weeks are sensational. The thing that has blown me away is that not only do they do the research but they look at the calorie content, the packaging and the marketing. It is the whole nine yards.”

Each team was given a specific vending market to design their product for, including: business and industry (where the majority of vending machines are located); education (schools); health care (mainly hospitals); leisure (swimming pools and gyms); staff catering; and transport (rail and bus stations and airports).

The students came up with six brand names for their products, which included popcorn, healthy cakes and exercise snacks. The winner of the competition will be announced in April.