January 2016

A topping idea wins "gluten-free" vending competition

Read time: approx 1 mins

Teams of Culinary Arts Management students impressed industry experts in a challenge to make a gluten-free vending machine snack. 

Judges including senior representatives from Mars Drinks and Unilever put the students’ tasty treats to the test in the annual Culinary Product Development Challenge organised by the Automatic Vending Association (AVA) and University College Birmingham. 

Both undergraduate and postgraduate Culinary Arts Management students were given 12 weeks to develop an innovative pre-packed vending product containing less than 400 calories per portion. As well as producing the snack, which needed to be gluten-free, the eight teams of six students had to design the packing, prepare an advertising campaign for its launch – and be ready to be quizzed by food industry bosses on competition day at UCB. 

The winners were TOP’D who used gluten-free polenta grains to create a shortbread-style base. The crunchy layer was topped with a range of classic British dessert-inspired flavours, including Eton Mess, Cherry Bakewell, Rhubarb and Custard and Lemon Meringue – hence the team’s name, TOP'D. The product included a “Save the Honey Bee”’ campaign message on the packaging showing how production of the bars could also celebrate a worthwhile cause. 

The TOP’D team of Sarah Dale, Chanzeb Kan, Katie Lewis, Megan Lyke, Eleny Minto and Sam Sines scooped a £1,000 prize cheque from project sponsor Unilever. Katie said: "We've worked so hard over the past 12 weeks and learnt so much and it's great to know that the hard work has paid off." 

The team were commended for their professionalism and level of knowledge. The judges said TOP’D had the best overall package, the most coherent concept and the snacks tasted superb.

The competition, which is in its third year, is designed to let students gather real-life product development experience working with industry experts. The vending industry is worth about £1.65bn per annum. 

AVA Chief Executive Jonathan Hart said: "The standard was unbelievably high at this year's challenge and the creativity on show was mind-blowing. All of the students deserve credit for their hard work and ingenuity.
"TOP'D was out in front for many of the judging panel given its excellent packaging, good product taste and the level of detail."

Bernhard Schumacher, Module Leader for Culinary Product Development at UCB, said: "We are extremely proud of all the teams. The level of professionalism and culinary talent our students displayed was incredible. This live project is focused on creativity, collaborative learning and attention to detail.’’  

Steve Collins, Membership Services Manager at the AVA and a mentor for the project, said: "TOP'D really stood out for us and it was clear that the team had done extensive research. The level of culinary skills displayed was also very good and the win was well deserved."

Multinational consumer goods company Unilever provided the prize fund and sponsored the event.

Judges at this year’s challenge were:

  • Tim Franklyn Hays, head of culinary team at Unilever Food Solutions
  • Roger Williams, managing director at Coinadrink
  • Jonathan Hart, chief executive of the AVA
  • Neil Thomas, national sales manager at Selecta
  • Dave Ward, chairman of the AVA and managing director of N & W Global Vending
  • Martyn Sylvester, Mars Drinks
  • Mike Saltmarsh, Inglehurst Food

For more information on the Automatic Vending Association, go to www.ava-vending.co.uk or call 01494 568960

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