One of the world’s leading food ingredient producers has awarded students in Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology $5,000 for their creation of a low-calorie, gourmet dessert. The Sweetzza, a frozen white chocolate and raspberry dessert pizza, earned them a second-place Danisco Knowledge Award.

Team captain Mark Kline of Milroy, Pa., said the team spent many hours “in the sensory kitchen testing formulations and trying to figure out the best possible product to enter into the competition.” He added, “As the deadline approached, we really came together as a team and worked late into the evenings finalizing our written report and product. We were ecstatic to find out we had been considered among the top 12 finalists, and it was unbelievable to win second place in this competition.”

Susan Duncan, a professor of food science and technology and the team’s faculty mentor, said the students were successful because of their initiative and industry knowledge. “They really were an independent team of undergraduate and graduate students who worked with the efficiency and initiative that is demanded in the food science industry,” she said.

In addition to the cash prize, Duncan and Kline won a trip for two to the Prepared Foods New Product Conference in Florida. According to Duncan, the mid-October conference attracts a select group of about 300 specialists who get a sneak peek at new products, ideas, and technology in the food industry.

Team members included Vy Truong of Fredericksburg, Va.; Angie Hartman of Roanoke, Va.; Laura Macherey of Springfield, Va.; Kevin Holland of Bradford, Pa.; Vanessa Teter of Spotsylvania, Va.; Sabrina Hannah of Elverson, Pa.; Ratia Kirby of Halifax, Va.; Amanda Boswell of Virginia Beach, Va.; Brian Stanek of Newton, N.J.; Jae Hee Hong of Seoul, Korea; Janet Webster of Radford, Va.; and Priti Parikh of Vadodra, India.

Danisco’s vision for the national competition is to support innovation in academic institutions such as Virginia Tech, to develop stronger links between universities and the ingredient manufacturer, and to encourage innovative approaches to food sciences challenges. Teams must be composed of juniors, seniors, or graduate students with a declared major in food science or a related field, and they must compile a written report in addition to providing contest judges with samples of their product.

The Virginia Tech students did not stop with the use of one Danisco ingredient, the minimum requirement. Formulated to only have about 200 calories, the Sweetzza contains three Danisco ingredients that maintain its dough stability, prevent ice crystallization, and provide gel strength for the raspberry fruit glaze.

In early May, six Danisco food specialists evaluated the contest entries and picked the top 12 finalists using a point system. Then, a panel of six product development experts judged the finalists for specific criteria, including product marketability and originality, and selected the three champions.

Founded in 1989, Danisco produces ingredients for food and other consumer products and engages in research and development for new products in the international food industry. Headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, Danisco is one of the largest sugar producers in Europe and has more than 10,600 employees in 46 countries.

Ranked 11th in agricultural research expenditures by the National Science Foundation, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.