Almond Board of California and Drexel University announced the winning concepts from their first-ever student competition, which challenged participants in a food product development class to develop next-generation almond snack products that cater to younger consumers and meet the taste and nutrition needs of tomorrow.

This year's finalists include:

  • 1st place: Almond Cookie Dough Snack Bites
  • 2nd place: Almond Butter Sandwich Crackers

Honorable mention also went to an Almond-Granola Butter Spread and Almond Protein Smoothie in Creamsicle, Chai, and Coffee flavors. Student competition participants assessed the current market for opportunities, conducted consumer research, surveyed their target audience, and sampled prototypes to strengthen their concepts and refine product pitches.

"The student competition highlighted what the younger generation finds exciting and interesting about almond attributes," said Charice Grace, manager of trade marketing and stewardship at the Almond Board of California. "The students reviewed the landscape and looked at where almonds bring benefits, and they returned with multiple concepts that improved upon protein levels or made a nostalgic item more healthy or convenient."

Culinary Arts and Science majors Grace Mailey and Gabriel Marchiony were selected as this year's winners by a panel of judges with expertise in food, culinary science, and product marketing. The judges included Chef Clara Park (Bon Appetit Management Company and recent contestant on Netflix's Snack vs. Chef), Chef Henry Hill (Hill's Research Kitchen), and Charice Grace from the Almond Board of California. Mailey and Marchiony impressed the judges with their creativity of innovation, almond usage, target audience and sensory execution. Both students are enrolled in Drexel University's Certificate in Food Entrepreneurship program and are student researchers in the Drexel Food Lab, where they further refined their products.

Students used a variety of almond ingredients like defatted almond flour (almond protein powder), almond butter, almond flour, almond milk and others to explore the best applications for each form. Because of their versatility and healthy halo, almonds have been the number one nut for global new product introductions since 2006, according to Innova Market Insights. In general, introductions with almonds have a higher likelihood of health claims.

"At Drexel, we pride ourselves on experiential learning and industry partnerships, both of which are cornerstones of our strategic plan," said Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., CRC, food product development course professor and director of food entrepreneurship and Innovation programs at Drexel. "We can't practice either of these things without meaningful real-world projects that develop students into early-career professionals."

Drexel students will pull elements of the competition's top concepts to showcase in a sample at IFT Expo. Attendees can meet this year's winners at booth #S1111 throughout the expo, and visit on Tuesday, July 18 from 11:00-1:00 p.m. to sample the student competition-inspired concept and discuss their development process.

Food professionals can follow the Almond Board of California's Nuts about Almond Inspiration LinkedIn page for the latest updates.