September 9, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.

A smooth dose of dairy

UW-River Falls students win new product competition

By ABBY WIEDMEYER | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
Staff Writer

Five University of Wisconsin-River Falls students — Rafael Larosiliere (from left), Anna Euerle, Kate Petersen, Ashley Gruman and Yihong Deng — celebrate July 17 as winners of the 2023 Dairy Management Inc. New Product Competition with their original dairy product, RootCurd. The product is a smooth pudding featuring root curry and lavender. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)


RIVER FALLS, Wis. — Five University of Wisconsin-River Falls students were recognized July 17 as winners of the 2023 Dairy Management Inc. New Product Competition with their original dairy product, RootCurd.

Dr. Rohit Kapoor, vice president of product research at DMI, said the goals of the competition are to inspire the next generation of dairy scientists and to fuel product innovation into the marketplace.

“You may not end up seeing the exact same products which win these competitions as such, but processors always keep an eye out,” Kapoor said. “They get inspired by these concepts.”

The competition is based on a specific theme each year that is grounded in consumer research and trends. This year, the competition was focused on creating a dairy product that had calming effects, since consumers are constantly looking for products to enhance their emotional and mental well-being.

The winning team was comprised of five undergraduate students: Kate Petersen, Yihong Deng, Rafael Larosiliere, Anna Euerle and Ashley Gruman.

RootCurd is a smooth pudding featuring root curry and lavender that contains 89% dairy ingredients.

Gruman said the process for creating a new product from start to finish provided many learning opportunities.

“The biggest takeaway from the competition was having all these ideas, excitement and energy to create this product but you always forget about all the issues you’re going to run into and all the things you’re going to have to overcome,” Gruman said. “It took a lot of patience and trial and error.”

The team started ideating in October 2022. They narrowed their ideas to two products and eventually went ahead with the product they thought would turn out the best. They used the test kitchen at the university and met every week to research and experiment with prototypes.

RootCurd (front, center) pudding was the winning product in the 2023 Dairy Management Inc. New Product Competition produced by a team of five students from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Its sweet and spicy flavor featured soothing lavender and root curry and is made with 89% dairy ingredients.


Once they decided on the concept of RootCurd, they ran into challenges, especially achieving the desired pudding-like consistency. After weeks of trial and error, they determined that even minor components like the rate of heating in the pan and the storage temperature of ginger were all having an effect on the product.

“That was one of our biggest challenges,” Gruman said. “Once we figured that out, things went pretty smoothly.”

Another aspect of the product that coincided with consumer trends is the clean label. RootCurd is made up of five ingredients, all of which are considered wholesome and nutritious. It is sweet with a little spice and boasts a high-protein, low-calorie content that includes 20 grams of protein. It comes in a yogurt-sized package.

The team’s advisor, Dr. Grace Lewis, said that they would follow the exact same procedure for weeks and end up with different results. The final product report was due in April, by which time the team had worked out all the kinks.

“The students overcame a lot of challenges along the way,” Lewis said. “They worked really hard.”

The competition provides real life experience to students who are all on the path to a food science career. Lewis said one of the students on the team was able to bypass the first round of interviews when joining the industry because of their contest experience.

“Going through this process is so fundamental for the real-world experience that many companies require for entry-level positions,” Lewis said. “The industry recognizes this competition as some initial experience.”

Kapoor agreed.

“The larger impact is the type of experience that Ashley and her team members get with the whole process of trying to find a solution when you are kind of stuck in a rut,” Kapoor said. “Those are real life experiences of what a food scientist would experience in the industry when they are working for a company.”

The winning team was awarded an $8,000 cash prize to split between the five members. Gruman said this will help those continuing on to graduate school, like she is, and provide a head start for those heading to the workforce.

The top three participating teams were able to attend the Institute of Food Technologists’ FIRST (Food Improved by Research, Science and Technology) conference in Chicago where winners were announced. Lewis said she is grateful for DMI supporting a portion of the travel cost to help make the experience possible since the event offers a good networking opportunity for the students.

Kapoor said the competition is further fueled by the participation of industry sponsors who served in the competition as judges.

“We are very proud that our dairy farmers have recognized that this has a significant value and continue to support this competition,” Kapoor said. “It’s a perfect collaboration between dairy farmers and the processors to realize this great initiative.”


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.