R&D at the CIA: Building a Meal Kit – The Grand Finale

building meal kit grand finale og image

For our final presentation, there were a few things we needed to do—including presenting the actual dish made from the meal kits and giving a presentation of the overall project.

The final project was intended to simulate a marketing pitch type of setting in a food development company. For this, there were a few panelists: Ted Russin, dean of the CIA’s Culinary Science Department; Michelle Risner, a marketing expert; Matt Tom, a manufacturing engineer; and JJ Lui, a CIA culinary science instructor. It was special for us to be able to present in front of Michelle Risner and Matt Tom. She’s a CIA alumna who’s been very successful in the product development industry. And he’s an engineer who knows how to deal with scale-up in a manufacturing setting.

We were given 20 minutes to present our meal kit’s concept, as well as market research, prototype, sensory analysis, HACCP plan, scale-up, packaging, and product design. We created our Yellow Curry Noodles and Sticky Mango Rice for the panelists to taste during the presentation, and showed off our packaged product as well. Overall, our team had a good response, but there were a few questions about the scale-up and packaging.

Michelle Risner was very helpful with the marketing aspect. She told us we have to make sure we have a very specific target consumer, but it has to be approachable to the general public too. Matt Tom gave us some insight on how scaling up would affect the product. The food product may well be good and successful when it’s made from a small portion. However, it’s a totally different story when the product is manufactured because of the mass production. For example, our Sticky Mango Rice might be problematic when mass producing. The rice might be cooked to different levels since the size of the machine is big. Also, we forgot to include the cooling part when scaling up. In a manufacturing setting, foods like rice can be overcooked if it doesn’t go through the cooling step.

We wished we had more instruction and budget to make the proper packaging. We had to bring our own materials to build the meal kit packaging—it was going to be too expensive to buy proper insulator and other necessary materials to prevent the heat from getting into the meal kit box.

Overall, it was a very helpful class to take because students get to plan and build a whole meal kit from start to finish. There’s nothing quite like learning by doing—and there’s a whole lot of that in the culinary science program!

Thanks for reading,

Jerry and Bryan

Bryan and Jerry