The Institute of Food Technologists Student Association (IFTSA), a student-governed community of members of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), has announced the finalists for the 34th Annual IFTSA and Mars Wrigley Product Development Competition, which requires student teams to develop a new food idea and carry the concept through to marketing and production. Six teams were selected as finalists, earning partial travel and registration to IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo, which is being held July 14–17 at McCormick Place in Chicago. 

At IFT FIRST, each team will present their pitch through an oral presentation and a tasting session to an expert panel. Judges will evaluate the product’s overall effectiveness, including technical problem-solving, process feasibility, and taste, ensuring the product’s commercial viability and appeal. Winners will be announced at the IFTSA Closing Ceremony on Tuesday night, July 16. First place receives $3,000, second place receives $1,500, and third place receives $500.

“This competition empowers student teams to operate like real-world commercial product development teams, offering them the opportunity to harness creativity, teamwork, and scientific skills to create the next big innovation in food,” says Christina Ginardi, director of academic engagement at IFT, a nonprofit scientific organization committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system. 

Last year, Cornell University claimed top honors for its new food product CaféNana, an upcycled, innovative caffeinated coffee-banana sandwich bite consisting of two chewy banana leather pieces and a creamy sunflower butter coffee filling. Cornell has won the IFTSA and Mars Wrigley Product Development Competition 11 times dating back to 1995 and is once again a finalist this year.

This year's finalists are:

Bright Bites – University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)

Bright Bites is composed of a spiced crème filling sandwiched between two layers of ginger cake, topped with a zesty lemon jam. It is a very low sodium and vegan snack cake, uniquely leavened with potassium bicarbonate.

Mango Sticky Bites – California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Pomona, California)

Mango Sticky Bites is an Asian fusion dessert that is inspired by two popular traditional Asian desserts, mango sticky rice and Daifuku. This product consists of five different components in one bite that includes a mango gelee center containing real mango bits, surrounded by a creamy coconut flavored Thai sticky rice, encapsulated in a thin layer of natural mango flavored mochi, and served with a side of coconut sauce and toasted sesame seeds.

Nonna’s Nopales – Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)

Nonna’s Nopales frozen meal kit is designed to satisfy Gen-Z and Millennial consumers seeking nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals with fusion flavors. The creamy, tomatillo-herb sauce paired with gnocchi made from nopal cactus pads blends Mexican flavors into the class Italian gnocchi dish.

KimCheer – Oregon State University (Corvallis, Oregon)

KimCheer contains a mix of air fried tempeh, lotus root, rice paper, and purple sweet potato chips coated with a signature kimchi seasoning, giving the consumer a crunch with a kimchi punch.

SOL – Spice of Life: Vanilla Chai Cognitive Wellness Beverage – Chapman University (Orange, California)

Spice of Life is a vanilla chai-flavored, shelf-stable ultra-high temperature, dairy-based wellness beverage. It is an ultra-filtered milk-based wellness shot offering unparalleled versatility in consumption methods while accommodating lactose-intolerant individuals. The product also contains cognitive functional ingredients, including L-theanine, to provide alertness and mental clarity beyond the benefits of caffeine.

Quinocchis – McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Quinocchis is a vegan, cheese-stuffed gnocchi that utilizes upcycled ingredients and can be eaten as both a dessert and as a meal.

To register for IFT FIRST, go to Student members receive a discount to IFT FIRST. To learn more about becoming a student member and taking advantage of networking, education, and advocacy opportunities year-round, email

Related: IFT Student Association celebrates awards and competition winners at IFT FIRST