Vegan innovation: Ecotrophelia challenges UK students to top the menu


25 May 2018 --- The growing trend for plant-based diets has inspired the teams that have entered this year’s student food innovation competition – Ecotrophelia UK. All five of the shortlisted products are meat–free and four are also vegan. Now in its sixth year, Ecotrophelia challenges teams of UK students to develop an innovative, eco-friendly food and drink products.

The competition this year has seen more teams than ever competing for a place in the final and a slice of the £3,500 (US$4,670) prize fund.
Click to EnlargeBertrand Emond, Head of Membership and Training at Campden BRI says: “It’s fantastic to see so many young people engage with this competition and put forward such innovative products. Around 300 students from 16 different universities across the UK have now taken part since 2013. Last year’s winning team went on to win the silver prize in the European final with their vegan sushi made from cauliflower rice and fresh vegetables; building on the bronze prize the previous year, so we have high hopes for the teams again this year.”
After deliberation, a panel of NPD experts selected the five finalist teams’ products:
•    Fava Bomb: Fava bean “falafel-style” savory balls with a soft dip center and a crunchy fava bean crust. They are a vegan on-the-go snack and perfect for a nutritious taste explosion – University of West London
•    Vegan Pizza with a Seaweed Base: A healthy, allergen-free pizza with a seaweed base, topped with tomato sauce, roasted red pepper, chestnut mushrooms, courgette, red onion, black olives and vegan cheese – Cardiff Metropolitan University
•    OAT-YOG Cacao, Cherry and Almond: A vegan, oat-based, vanilla yogurt alternative, with a “supergrain” cluster topping containing recycled oats, puffed quinoa and sorghum wheat. The clusters contain cacao, cherry and almond – University of Reading
•    Pom Puffs: Spicy BBQ flavored apple pomace and corn puffs – University of Nottingham
•    FabaMallow: A luxury, vegan and eco–friendly marshmallow, made from aquafaba and apples, coated in dark chocolate – London Metropolitan UniversityClick to Enlarge
The finalists will pitch their products to the dragons on 5th June and the winner will be announced on 6th June at Campden BRI Day.
The “dragons” are senior food experts from across the industry including Marks and Spencer (prize sponsor), Coca-Cola, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelez, Sainsbury’s, Warburtons, Tesco, Food Manufacture, Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) and Campden BRI. Food Matters Live provides additional sponsorship.
This year's entries included teams from CAFRE, Cardiff Metropolitan University, University of Reading, London Metropolitan University, University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University, University of Leeds and Sheffield Hallam University and the University of West London.
The winner will go on to represent the UK and compete against 19 other European national teams at the Ecotrophelia European final at SIAL in Paris on 21st and 22nd October 2018.
The UK heat of this Europe-wide competition is organized by UK food and drink research organization, Campden BRI, in conjunction with the Institute of Food Science & Technology.  

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Bertrand Emond at Campden BRI says: “We’ve seen an increasing number of vegetarian and vegan entries from the student teams since we brought the Ecotrophelia competition to the UK in 2013. The students are reflecting what’s going on in the market. Veganism and flexitarian diets are becoming more popular, particularly among millennials.”

“Vegan products are much more widely available now – many restaurants and high-street chains are following the trend and introducing vegan options to satisfy growing demand. At the moment, most people agree that the trend is here to stay,” notes Emond. 

From industry itself, we have seen an increase in interest in alternative protein sources – such as plant protein or novel sources like insect protein – and now these can potentially be used in products. “This is largely in response to increased meat consumption globally and in emerging markets,” he adds. 

“For next year’s competition, we are less concerned about the trends or types of products than about the competition continuing to attract and inspire the best food science and technology students to get involved. It is a fantastic way for them to get exposure to some of the industry’s biggest players and potential future employers,” explains Emond.

By Elizabeth Green

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