Students turn over a new leaf with salad challenge

December 2014

Food and Consumer Management students were tasked with creating the perfect salad for Costa Coffee shops. 

Following a brief set by representatives of salad processing company Kanes Foods, the second-year students undertook research by visiting coffee shops and observing the behaviour of customers, including how they select salads. They looked for trends and popular products, as well as visiting websites and analysing market research reports. 

“Whilst observing customers and their habits we noticed that, more often than not, they were buying salads and taking them away to eat on the go, or in a car or at a desk, so packaging and ease of eating were important things to consider,” said Sophie, one of the Food and Consumer Management students. 

“We also saw that certain salads were more popular than others, such as chicken-based and Asian cuisine such as Thai or Vietnamese flavourings.” 

The students worked to a list of strict, industry-level criteria, including:

  • Health (portion size, allergen-free, low salt/sugar levels)
  • Personalisation (extras such as added toppings or dressings)
  • Trends (researching flavour profiles, ingredients and aesthetics)
  • Ethical/Provenance (using organic and Fair Trade products, but remaining cost-effective)
  • Packaging (investigating types of trays, lids, materials and cutlery)
  • Marketing (researching the competition, the customers, and how much people are willing to spend)  

After designing their product, the students completed a detailed Product Submission Form for the approval of the two Kanes Foods representatives, who both happened to be UCB alumni. 

Emi Lambert, Marketing Executive at Kanes Foods, said: “It’s really beneficial for the students to get involved in projects like this as they can experience professional processes and really get a flavour for what it’s like to work in the product development industry.” 

“Students presented us with some fantastic ideas,” said colleague Clare Selvey, who manages Kanes account with Sainsbury’s. “They really considered all aspects of the brief we gave them whilst thinking about packaging and cost and retail prices.” 

Mandy Lloyd, product development lecturer, was delighted with the students’ work: “They embraced the brief and created some really innovative and tasty ideas, and also considered the viability of producing them on a large scale. The feedback from Kanes was invaluable in assessing their concepts.” 

Kanes Foods is one of the largest salad processors in the UK. Located in Evesham, Worcestershire, it opened its new environmentally-sustainable salad factory two years ago and is constantly looking for new ways to evolve products.