ROSEMONT, ILL. – RootCurd, a product created by a team of students at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF), earned first place in this year’s Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) New Product Competition.
The winning product was described as resembling a soft pudding, with a smooth and velvety texture. RootCurd contains 89% dairy ingredients and comes with a calming function, per the contest guidelines.
The product’s creators from UWRF said ginger gives it a slightly spicy flavor and RootCurd was inspired by a traditional Chinese recipe. It includes lavender to help reduce physical and mental stress levels, while also delivering 20 grams of dairy protein per serving.
Recognized July 17 at IFT First, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and trade show in Chicago, UWRF students Kate Petersen, Yihong Deng, Rafael Larosiliere, Anna Eurele and Ashley Gruman are studying food science. They received the first-place prize of $8,000.
Eurele said she learned that Gen Z is seeking international-inspired options, which led to the team using ginger and lavender in their formulation.
“To a lot of people, the pairing of ginger and lavender was a little off-putting initially, but once they tried it, it actually marries together really, really well,” Eurele said. “RootCurd plays to a lot of interesting different notes.”
Petersen and Deng went to the American Dairy Science Association’s most recent annual meeting and saw a presentation from DMI experts on consumer trends. They said they learned there that younger consumers want products with high protein content that also are convenient and have clean labels.
“RootCurd hits all of those parameters, so hearing that at the conference made us think, ‘Wow, we made something that can actually work,’” Petersen said. “Our ingredients piggyback the natural calming effects of dairy. When I think of calming, I think of a glass of hot chocolate or a bowl of ice cream, so RootCurd is just a progression of adding our ingredients to dairy.”
Students from California State University-Fresno took second place in the competition with their Cottage Core, a high-protein premium cottage cheese-based frozen dessert. Kansas State University students placed third with their Sip to Soothe, inspired by a traditional Indian dairy-based beverage called Chaas.
The contest, established in 2012, aims to inspire the next generation of food scientists and innovators, while giving students real-life experience. The dairy checkoff gives its New Product Competition a different theme each year to align with consumer trends and strategies to reach younger audiences.
“Our objective is to stimulate dairy product innovation to meet the changing marketplace needs with healthy and nutritious products,” said Dr. Rohit Kapoor, vice president of product research for DMI, who manages the contest. “More important, this competition inspires the next generation of dairy scientists and innovators. We have had more than 500 students be part of this enriching experience since its inception.”