RMIT Food Science students have re-invented one of Australia’s favourite recipes and it’s already winning over discerning tastebuds here and overseas.
Naomi Cutler and Charlize Snyman were in their final year of the Bachelor of Science (Food Technology and Nutrition) when they were given a brief to design Australia’s new favourite biscuit.
At the same time, they were offered a proposal to enter the 2016 Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) Product Development Competition, calling for a viable Australian made product made with a high legume content.
After much experimentation, the pair came up with a variation on an old classic to cater to today’s consumer with a variety of dietary needs.
“We based our Eat Me Coconut Chickpea Cookie off an Anzac biscuit recipe that we modified to eliminate allergen containing ingredients,” Cutler said.
“By substituting the wheat flour and dairy ingredients with chickpeas and lupin, and by adding hints of vanilla and coconut, we were able to maintain the familiar texture and golden colour of the much-loved Anzac biscuit.”
Much effort went in to ensure the Eat Me Coconut Chickpea Cookie stood out from other pre-packaged treats on the market, with the pair creating many versions before they were satisfied with the final product.
“A lot of time and energy was spent trying to achieve a chewy texture and to give it a modern twist,” Snyman said.
“We did this by designing simple packaging and presenting it in café cookie size – which has worked really well.
“The development process involved lots of planning, baking and eating - thankfully our fellow students, along with keen friends and family were willing to assist with the taste-testing.”
The hard work paid off when Cutler and Snyman were announced winners of the undergraduate student category for the AIFST Product Development Competition. They scored a paid trip to the Chicago LovePulse Showcase, a cash prize of $5000 each and an internship with the Retail Food Group (RFG).
“When our cookie formulation was finalised and we were producing a consistent product in class, the spare samples at the end of each production just seemed to disappear!” Cutler said.
“This, along with lots of other great feedback, was when we began to realise just how popular our cookie might become.
“We represented Australia and our product at the LovePulses Showcase in Chicago where student product developers present their recipes to an international audience.
“Everyone was receptive and keen to find out how we were able to overcome the challenge of making legume products tasty and attractive and as a result, there is now demand for our product over there as well.”
While in the United States, they attended workshops and seminars and were able to network with food technologists from around the world.
“The experience over the past six months here at RMIT, in Brisbane and Chicago has really broadened our horizons and provided us with valuable skills for the food industry,” Cutler said.
“When I finish my degree at the end of the year, I’m looking forward to completing the 4-week internship with RFG and then later, I’ll either go straight into industry or undertake a master degree in food technology.”
Snyman recently completed her bachelor degree and on her return from Chicago she went straight into a graduate food technologist position with Simplot Australia.
“I really want to work in product development,” she said.
“The hands-on, industry-focused program at RMIT provided us with a wonderful opportunity to develop our cookie in its brand new food research and innovation centre with its test kitchen and sensory lab.
“This experience has helped us both to continue to innovate as food technologists and eventually to follow our dream to become product developers.”
Story: Rebecca McGillivray