‘Soy good’ creations from the NUS FoodTech Challenge 2021

Looks like the judges were bowled over at the NUS FoodTech Challenge 2021, held for the second time since 2019. “Tasty”, “delicious”, “I really like the product”, “I enjoyed the drink” were some of their comments after sampling entries by over 140 participants from various institutes of higher learning.

This year’s competition was organised by the NUS Food Science and Technology Society and NUS Enterprise in partnership with Nestlé R&D Centre Singapore – with the challenge to create differentiating concepts of Nestlé to excite Southeast Asian consumers with affordable, healthy and sustainable products through innovative application of side streams.

Relevant Nestlé products considered for innovation were ice cream, hot beverages and food (for instance, noodles and sauces) and side streams like Brewer’s spent grains, soy okara, coffee ground and oilseed press cakes.

Over a period of one month, 43 teams attended workshops by partner sponsors, start-up founders and senior representatives of leading food science and technology companies such as Nestlé, SG Food United, CP Kelco, IFF, Tate & Tyle and Manus Bio. They also held consultations with leading mentors from the foodtech industry and learnt about the business of start-ups from NUS Enterprise mentors.

After an intense preliminary round held virtually on 28 June, 10 teams were selected to vie for attractive cash prizes as well as an opportunity for incubation support by Nestlé and NUS Enterprise.

In the week leading up to the finale on 9 July, the 10 finalist teams carried out prototyping for their final product to be presented to the judges. During this period, they had access to commercially unavailable side streams, flavours and ingredients to create their early prototypes. NUS Department of Food Science and Technology was turned into a battleground as teams strived to incorporate the side streams and some rather challenging flavours and textures into their prototypes.

Team Mottai’s offering called Oh Snap! is a flavourful snack without the health compromises. It comes in three basic flavours (Silly Seaweed, Smuggly Sour Cream & Onion and Punchy Pepper-lime) and seasonal limited-edition flavours (Rebellious Rendang, Geeky Green Curry, Lovely Laab Salmon and Cheeky Chilli Crab). Oh Snap! stood out in being lower in calories and higher in protein and fibre compared to similar products in the market.

“There were times when we felt very jaded as our ideas couldn't work out and we kept pivoting what we had previously worked on. We also often felt like we were going in circles and hitting the same roadblock without being able to overcome it. The moment everything snapped into place was really the highlight of our journey. Our advice for future participants is to not give up easily. It is all right not to have an idea of where you're going even when the deadline is four hours away,” said the team.

The other three winning teams are:

  • Team ProkaBar (second place) which came out with a protein bar made up of soy okara and barley spent grains. The team got it right only after 32 iterations when they managed to optimise the composition. Each bar accounts for 75 per cent of daily fibre needs and 25 per cent of daily protein needs.
  • Team More.Bites (third place) which cooked up cup noodles and “otah” balls using upcycled flour, okara and vegetables. They were inspired by “yong tau foo” -- a local dish that comes with a variety of food in bite-sized portion paired with rice, vermicelli or noodles.  
  • Team SOY OK, awarded the Innovation Prize, a special category prize for undergraduate teams, presented an appetising and healthy cereal, targeted at alleviating malnutrition. The team used fermentation in the production as it helped to improve the texture and flavour, extend shelf life, metabolise anti-nutrients and enhance nutritional properties.


By NUS Enterprise