Everyone can get the urge for an ice cream—even when it is made from seaweed
Two students created an ice cream made from seaweed, berries and fruit from Scandinavia and won a competition regarding innovative and sustainable foods
“I’ve learned a lot from the Blue Dot-course on innovative food products – not least about the industry and real life. You learn to use what you’ve learned to make a product.”
Julie Storm Høgsbro’s enthusiasm is palpable as she talks about the Blue Dot course she completed in the autumn semester.
The aim of the course is precisely to encourage students to use their engineering skills to develop something that can be used in real life. And according to the judges, Julie and her fellow course participant’s product—Kyst Isen—had so much potential that it won the Danish Ecotrophelia competition for innovative and sustainable food.
Participants can use an idea from a previous course, but Julie Storm Høgsbro, a student on the MSc programme in Food Technology, and Johanne Parelius, an exchange student from NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, decided to start from scratch. The only thing they knew was that Julie wanted to develop a product using untraditional ingredients and that Johanne wanted to do something that was gastronomically different.
Their initial idea was to make an ice cream using overly ripe bananas, which cannot be sold because they have brown spots. This proved unviable, as bananas do not have a batch number so that they can be traced back to the importer. The two students then discussed alternative food resources to feed the ever-growing population of ice cream lovers. The answer might come from the sea, they thought, and in that way they came upon the idea of using seaweed—a resource with tremendous potential, but at the same time one that is unfamiliar to consumers.
“People tend to think of seaweed as something smelly lying on the beach—not as something that’s delicious to eat. But everyone can get the urge to eat an ice cream when it’s hot—people aren’t so afraid of ice cream, so we thought it wouldn’t be too hard to get them to try the seaweed variety,” explains Julie.
Three kinds of ice lolly
After a good deal of brainstorming, the girls came up with three different ice creams—a red, a yellow and a green, all containing a little seaweed, different berries and fruits grown in the Scandinavian countries, and lots of apple juice.
The red ice cream is made with dulse alga, which according to Julie has a delicious creamy taste which is accentuated by a sweet plum puree. The yellow variant is more acidic, made with sea buckthorn and oarweed. And the green is slightly mojito-like because of its water mint and gooseberry content. It also contains the sweet spirulina alga imported from Central America and is thus the only non-Nordic ingredient.
Naturally, the development phase required a great deal of experiments with taste and consistency. When the girls were satisfied with the results, they tested the ice creams on—among others—a panel of potential customers.
There were very mixed opinions about the ice cream; some people did not like it at all, while others immediately wanted to know where they could buy it. However, there was sufficient positive feedback for the girls to decide to go ahead with the development. And when they also managed to make the company Nordisk Tang so interested in their product that they were allowed to use its logo on the packaging, the Kyst Isen began to look like a winner product.
The exam on the Blue Dot course on food products is the Danish Ecotrophelia competition, which is held in DTU’s innovation hub, DTU Skylab. Participants from other Danish universities are welcome, but this time only three DTU teams entered the competition. And the Kyst Isen won over an insect bar and a product which is secret for now.
“I think the judges found it very important whether the product could be mass-produced, and whether it was commercially viable. But, of course, they also focused on whether the taste, packaging and product labelling were satisfactory,” says Julie.
“As mentioned, we had the Nordisk Tang logo on the packaging along with the ‘Ø’ ecolabel and the words Nordic and sustainable, which all spoke in our favour.”
Winning the competition paved the way for a trip to London, where the European Ecotrophelia competition was to take place. Here, the Kyst Isen was judged by 15 critical judges—and lost to an avocado smoothie, a cauliflower sushi product and a berry-flavoured whey drink.
Nevertheless, the Kyst Isen may well have a future. It just has to wait until the girls have completed their study programmes. Marketing the ice cream will require more time than we have as students,” says Julie.
“We’d probably have to start with a more specific talk with Nordisk Tang and possibly other sponsors. And then I think we’d go for pop-up stalls at the beach. The name probably isn’t optimal either.”
source: Technical University of Denmark