SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Food science students from Utah State University scooped up the top prize in this year’s new products competition sponsored by the Idaho Milk Processors Association.

Their innovative product — Moogets, a chicken nugget substitute using cheese as the base — won the $10,000 grand prize to be split between the university and the students.

In addition to cheese, the product also contains milk and whey isolate powder for a dairy ingredient content of 79%.

With 39 grams of protein per serving, Moogets have three times the amount of protein found in similar vegetarian products. They are also a good source of calcium and vitamin B12, a nutrient that is often lacking in a vegetarian diet.

With a unique set of nutrients, calcium, vitamins and minerals, the product could fill a need not currently met in the marketplace and appeal to vegetarians and other consumers wanting to limit their meat intake, according to the students.

Team members include Melissa Marsh, Jung Mun Yang, Ireland Green, Savannah Branson and Sophie Overbeck.

“We appreciate the opportunity that IMPA gives USU, and other schools, to compete in the product development competition,” Dave Irish, USU team adviser and the school’s Aggie Creamery manager, said.

“Our students had a great idea, worked extremely hard, and we are pleased with the results, both as a product and the grand prize,” he said.

Four other university teams made a good showing as well, and the competition was stiff.

“The committee felt this year’s collection, the whole group of products, was probably the best that we’ve ever had,” Alan Reed, IMPA new product committee chairman and CEO of Reed’s Dairy, said.

They were both innovative and higher quality products, he said.

Students from Brigham Young University-Idaho took first prize, winning $5,000 for their YoMallow yogurt-based marshmallows. The product is healthier than its conventional counterpart, containing less sugar, more protein, calcium and other nutrients. The nutritional benefits are aimed at parents who want to give their children a healthier alternative and adults wanting a product with less sugar.

Students from Brigham Young University in Utah claimed second place and $3,000 for their Moo-Ribbons dehydrated dairy roll-up snack. The product uses a Neufchatel cheese base and contains less sugar than similar products. Target consumers are children ages 3 to 12.

Garnering third place and $2,000 was the team from the University of Idaho and Washington State University for its Palouse Power Soup, a whey-based lentil and rice soup. The product uses whey, a byproduct of cheese production, and has a higher protein and calcium content than similar soups. The product targets busy, health-minded people and can also be marketed as sustainable.

Fourth prize went to the team from South Dakota State University for its Nutrifusion meal replacement beverage. The product features a combination of proteins from milk protein concentrate, whey and soy and contains 12 essential vitamins and minerals. The beverage can be consumed by lactose-intolerant consumers and anyone wanting a nutritional boost.

The reason processors sponsor the competition is two-fold, Reed said.

The first is to give students access to processors in Idaho and have them stay through internships and jobs, he said.

“We just want them to stay in Idaho. … We want to find the best,” he said.

The second is to develop new food products using dairy and hopefully bring these products to market, he said.

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