"Gross-out" factor key to candy creators' success

by Stephen Forgacs
Staff writer

A candy-coated treat shaped to look like dinosaur droppings has earned a University of British Columbia graduate student a spot among six finalists in an international food product development competition.

Jill Richardson, who is completing a master's degree in Food Science with the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, is one of six finalists and the first Canadian ever in the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association Product Development Competition. Sponsored by M&M/Mars, the competition takes place in Atlanta, Ga. June 21-22.

The product that earned Richardson and teammate George Aliphtiras a spot in the finals is called Dinodrops -- candy-coated sour cherries produced in odd shapes and in colors ranging from "puke green" to "blood red."

Richardson, who will begin work on her doctorate in September, says the product's initial success is based on taste, target market, appearance and packaging.

"Dinodrops are a sweet and sour candy that have a definite gross-out factor," says Richardson, who has targeted the candy at children under 14 years.

The candy's centre is a dehydrated sour cherry produced using unique technology called vacuum microwave drying, developed by DRI Dehydration Research Inc., a spin-off company from UBC's Dept. of Food Science. DRI's dehydration process enhances the appearance, nutrition, flavor and quality of food products.

The candies, which are slightly larger than M&Ms, are stamped with a dinosaur's footprint and packaged in a box that, when blown into while empty, emits a "Dino call." The container also depicts the rear end of a dinosaur and features educational information on dinosaurs on the inside.

In Atlanta, products will be evaluated based on a written report, oral and poster presentations, and taste tests. The other competitors, all from U.S. universities, have entered a range of food products including Pro-Crunch, Wrapidos, S'morsels, Chicotillas and Banana-Custard Delights.

Finalists were selected by a panel of industry food scientists based on preliminary proposals of new products that described their technical aspects and marketability.

Winners will be chosen based on product originality, feasibility, innovativeness, and market potential as well as on team members' presentation skills.