Busy lives and busy schedules often mean that families put convenience ahead of nutrition when it comes to eating on the go, but Georgia 4-H’ers have developed new food products that add a nutritional punch to the ready-to-eat food market.
Four teams of Georgia 4-H’ers traveled to the University of Georgia’s Athens campus last weekend to showcase their new food product prototypes as part of the Georgia 4-H’s Food Product Development Contest.
This year’s product proposals included a shelf-stable yogurt snack, a honey-tinged oatmeal breakfast bar, an antioxidant-packed berry juice drink and a cheese cracker developed for people with dairy allergies.
In their third year in the contest, the Cheez Beez team from Walker County walked away with first prize for their dairy-free cheese crackers. They have participated in the contest since 2016. Each year, they refined their crackers and their presentation.
They developed their concept for a vegan cheese cracker after learning that one of their fellow Walker County 4-H’ers was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance that prevented her from eating cheese. After talking to the mothers of other children who could not eat dairy foods, they thought a dairy-free alternative to those ubiquitous, fish-shaped cheese crackers might find a foothold on crowded grocery store shelves.
The LaFayette, Georgia-based team included LaFayette High School juniors Rylie Chamlee and Jenna Sweatmon and seniors Lauren Pike and Tori Lowrance. Walker County 4-H’s Casey Hobbs coached the team.
As part of the contest, the 4-H’ers must develop a recipe for a new food product, research the market for the product, create a marketing plan, and design a food safety and manufacturing plan for the product. They pitch their product to a panel of judges from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Department of Food Science and Technology.
In addition to recognizing the Walker County team, the judges awarded a second-place plaque to Floyd County 4-H’ers for their Clover Cups, a breakfast bar produced by Mason Daniel, Natalie Daniel, Karmen Holbert and Veeka Malenchuk and coached by Floyd County Cooperative Extension Agent Abbie Salmon.
Terrell County 4-H’ers Alyssa Dunbar, Larry Hall, Wanya Hall, DarVarous Jones, Janya Scott and Sebastian Shattles took third place with Burri-licious, an antioxidant-packed berry juice tonic. Terrell County 4-H’s Margaret Halbrook coached the team.
An honorable mention went to the Haralson County 4-H team for YAP, a shelf-stable yogurt snack developed by team members Ayshanna Frazier, Rachel Ibbetson, Rebekah Ibbetson and Jozie Mize. Haralson County 4-H’s Jenelle Hanyon coached the team.
“Every year these students blow us away with their creativity, dedication and attention to detail,” said Cheryl Varnadoe. “Each one of these products deserves a spot on the shelf at the local grocery store, and we’re proud that Georgia 4-H gives these students the ability to develop their entrepreneurial skills while learning about nutrition and food safety.”
For more information about the wide range of programs offered by Georgia 4-H, visit www.georgia4H.org.
(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Walker County 4-H members (from left) Jenna Sweatmon, Lauren Pike, Tori Lawrence, Rylie Chamlee and 4-H agent and team coach Casey Hobbs celebrate after pitching their Cheez Beez snack cracker concept at the 2018 Georgia 4-H Food Product Development Contest.Download Image