R&D at the CIA: Building a Meal Kit – Good Shelf Awareness

randd at the cia meal kit og image

With recipe testing and sensory analysis out of the way, the next step in the meal kit development process is shelf-life testing and scale up. At this point, we know that our food tastes good and we know exactly what is going to be put into our meal kit box; however, we need to determine the shelf stability of our mango rice dessert. After all, developing a dessert that would be able to withstand extreme shipping conditions was the primary goal of this project.

To test this, we left four different vacuum-sealed bags of our meal kit-ready rice mixture sitting for seven days in four different testing environments:

  • Placed in our walk-in refrigerator
  • Left out at room temperature
  • Put into a 30-degree (Celsius) bacteria incubation chamber
  • Stored in our freezer

After seven days, we examined each of our samples to see if any harmful bacteria grew in the bags and if the quality of the finished product has been compromised at all. The freezer sample was tested just to see if our mango rice was able to be frozen and thawed without any change in quality; no bacteria was expected to grow in the freezer environment.

Overall, our shelf life testing was successful across the board! We saw no change in the quality of the refrigerated and room temperature samples. The frozen sample was successfully frozen and thawed with no change in quality. We specifically wanted to see if any bacteria would grow in the bacteria incubator sample. As the name suggests, this chamber is made specifically to create ideal growing conditions for bacteria. We swabbed the contents of this sample to see if any bacteria would grow on a petri dish and we saw no significant bacterial growth after five days, leading us to believe that our dessert was indeed shelf-stable. It is worth noting, however, that shelf-life testing was not conducted beyond seven days, as we did not have the time to let our samples sit any longer.

Our 8th term in the culinary science program is almost over and we can finally see the light at the end of this culinary research and development tunnel—but our work is not done yet! In these final two weeks, we will need to prepare our meal kits to ship out. We also need to prepare our Final Defense Presentation, where we will present our concept to a panel of industry professionals and defend all of the reasoning behind the decisions we made during the meal kit development process. Wish us luck!

Until next time,

Jerry and Bryan

Bryan and Jerry