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Smoothie Pie: Budding Food Scientists Hope Victory Will Be Sweet

Food science students have earned a finalist spot in a national competition by inventing a healthy taste treat, “smoothie pies.”

The students have turned the traditional smoothie into a refrigerated treat made of a thick, creamy strawberry and yogurt filling that is cradled by a crunchy graham cracker pie crust and separated by a thin layer of chocolate.

The pies contain calcium, protein, and vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as the probiotic yogurt culture Lactobacillus acidophilus, which may benefit the gastrointestinal system.

The treats are designed to attract today’s nutrition-savvy consumers as well as those who simply enjoy the smoothie taste, says team member James Colby, a graduate student in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

But he’s not saying too much more than that at this point: Colby says team members, sponsored by the UW-Madison Food Science Club, think they’ve got a winner and may patent the product. Members don’t want to give away too many secrets in advance of the competition.

Six university teams will engage in the “food fight” at the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting July 25-26 in Chicago as finalists in the IFT Student Association”s Product Development Competition.

The annual North American contest honors the top three food product inventions of student teams based on written reports, oral and poster presentations, and taste tests at IFT’s meeting.

The finalists were selected by a panel of industry food scientists based on preliminary proposals that described the technical aspects and marketability of their inventions. Winners will be chosen based on product originality, feasibility, innovativeness, and market potential, as well as on team members” presentation skills.

Besides Colby, the UW-Madison team includes food science students Laura Lebak of Bismarck, N.D., who is working toward a masters degree; David Schmidt, a senior from Tomah; and Vidya Venkat, a doctoral candidate from Harrison township, Mich.

Colby says the team refined their product by putting out samples for focus groups drawn from a tough crowd — staff and students at Babcock Hall, home of UW-Madison”s famously delicious ice cream.

Even so, the group faces stiff competition: Cornell University, for example, is hawking Sweet Spots, individually wrapped frozen treats that consist of a whole, crisp Jonagold apple, filled with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and coated with caramel and oats.

Meanwhile, students from the University of Minnesota will compete with Sunrise Dippin’Duos, oblong English muffins filled with egg, diced ham, onions, green bell peppers and a blend of spices. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign team will offer Tater Stuffs, a variation on traditional cheese fries.

The UW-Madison team has delivered reports on the smoothie pie idea to the judges, and is preparing posters and presentations for the competition. Also still to come is the moment of truth: taste testing. Judges will sample the smoothie pie and other food inventions 12-2 p.m. Monday, July 26, in room S404bc, McCormick Place convention center, Chicago. Winners will be announced at 7 p.m.