March 9, 2018

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

cia meal kit 3 og image

Next up…Testing and Prototyping

A quick review before we get to the most recent action:

  • Two weeks ago, we did the ideation session to get a sense of what people want.
  • Last week, we held a focus group to get more details about our products and plans. The focus group was more about the consumer research. The whole process enabled us to extract customer behavioral patterns and figure out what people want and don’t want.

Our findings? People don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes on both prepping and cooking, and they were all in agreement that it’s really about the experience they are buying into when ordering a meal kit.

cia meal kit 3 dessert tarts image

So this week, the whole class was in the kitchen testing recipes and prototyping their meal kit products. Our team tested a mango sticky rice dessert recipe. We made seven different batches to find the perfect ratio for mango, water, and coconut milk in rice. We agreed on 1:1:1 ratio for rice. We put sticky rice, water, coconut milk, mango, brown sugar, and sesame oil in a sous-vide bag and vacuum-sealed them. Then we cooked the rice in hot water bath. The point of this recipe testing is to figure out how to make this food product shelf-stable rather than how to formulate recipes.

Our next task is to find the pasteurization temperature, controlled water activity level, and low enough pH level. Also, we have to create the entrée for our meal kit. The entrée dish doesn’t have to be shelf-stable, so it should be easier to make. We are thinking about a yellow curry udon with Thai eggplant. Other teams made vegan pad thai, raspberry cheesecake, and spinach pesto pasta.

We’re also doing some pretty cool things outside the R&D class. In our Precision Temperature Cooking class, we learn how to produce consistently cooked food. The first lab/class was on sous-vide cooking. Sous vide literally means “under pressure” in French. This cooking method requires a hot water bath and a bag or container. We cooked egg, steaks, and pork bellies in different temperatures and compared them. It was surprising how many differences could be found with a few temperature gaps.

Back in R&D, we can’t wait to continue building our Meal Kit. We’ll keep y’all updated.

Peace out, Brussels sprout!

By Bryan and Jerry

Bryan and Jerry