Creative food ideas to keep you in the pink of health

Students from various tertiary institutions brainstormed and came up with innovative food tech ideas to tackle pressing issues confronted by the food industry today, at the annual NUS FoodTech Challenge (NUS FTC). The event was organised by the NUS Food Science and Technology Society, NUS Enterprise and the NUS Department of Food Science and Technology, in partnership with Nestlé, International Flavours & Fragrances (IFF) and Perkin Elmer.

This year’s iteration incorporated an international track, with students from tertiary institutions in China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the UK, pitting their creative food solutions against their local counterparts. Participants got to choose one of two problem statements. The brief from Nestlé required them to create Southeast Asian consumer products or digital solutions for adults to proactively manage their health by leveraging the goodness of sustainably sourced and minimally-processed ingredients.  IFF, on the other hand, asked participants to propose new concepts that will excite Asian consumers, with value-added health benefits and an enhanced sensorial experience of taste and texture.

The buzz before the big day

The challenge kicked off with a two-day pre-competition online workshop, during which industry experts shared insights on business models and pitching, food safety and quality assurance, and food formulation.

Ten local and nine international track teams advanced into the preparation phase out of 73 teams in the preliminary rounds. Finalists attended prototyping workshops to refine their ideas under the mentorship and guidance of industry experts in the lead-up to the finals.

Innovations for the palate

A judging panel comprising Dr Allan Lim, Mr Nikhil Chand and Mr Martin Sohr from Nestlé; Ms Kok Mei Fah, Ms Michelle Lee, Ms Merry Shi, Mr Vivek Sharma and Ms Ng Wan Ting from IFF; Mr Vincent Lau from Perkin Elmer; Ms Verleen Goh from Alchemy Foodtech; and Mr John Cheng from Innovate360, presided over the finals on 7 and 8 July 2022.

Finalists thoroughly impressed judges with their unique food ideas, which included fruit jellies made from grain, crackers created with okara (also known as soy pulp), nutritious microalgae drinks and candies with therapeutic qualities. Judges had the opportunity to taste food samples for the local run of the finals.

IFF’s local track winner, team KONJACK! from NUS, highlighted the need for healthier instant noodle options.  The team introduced the concept of using Konjac instant noodles accompanied by mock meat made from jackfruit, wowing the judges by confidently pitching their low-sodium, low-calorie, and gluten-free product, which boasts a 12-week shelf life.

Meanwhile, Nestlé’s local track winner, team Yummgel, also from NUS, introduced their novel idea of fruit jellies made from spent grain. The spent grains are encased in jelly to eliminate the texture of the grain, making the consumption of fibre more enjoyable and convenient for nutrition on-the-go.

Held virtually, the international teams also impressed judges with compelling and engaging presentations on their innovations. IFF’s international track winner, team Forl!fe, introduced their idea of a probiotic drink that incorporated nutritious, protein-rich microalgae. The probiotic drink is freeze-dried in powder form to extend its shelf-life and ensure easy consumption.

Nestlé’s international track winner bowled judges over with their idea of a low-carb, sustainable meal. Called Nescrave, it is ready-to-eat and contains healthier carbohydrate substitutes such as taro flour. Packed in sustainable packaging, Nescrave aims to be the go-to product for those who often skip breakfast due to their busy lifestyles or the lack of convenient, healthy breakfast options.

The runner-up teams from both tracks and their ideas include:

Local Track

1) IFF Runner-up: Team O’Grain came up with a puffed multigrain cracker available in barbecue and jalapeño tomato flavours. The vegan, soybean-based snack is a healthy and tasty alternative to other chips currently on supermarket shelves.

2) Nestlé Runner-up: Team O-Kracker (from NUS) created the okara seaweed cracker, a healthy and crunchy snack to incorporate the benefits of okara – soy pulp that is a rich source of fibre – into our diet and reduce food waste.

International Track

1) IFF Runner-up: Team Not a Meath’s offering called ‘Not a Meath’ is a 100 per cent plant-based, Chinese-styled jerky that boosts benefits for the gut. It comes in five flavours that are popular in Asia, such as tikka masala, rendang, bulgogi and teriyaki.

2) Nestlé Runner-up: Team Boocaw! crafted kombucha jellies which are strip candies made with kersen fruit and local herbs. The jellies aid in digestion, lower blood-sugar, increase immunity and are high in vitamins and antioxidants.


By NUS Enterprise