A team of students from the University of Nottingham has won the gold prize at Ecotrophelia UK with their non-alcoholic Arabica coffee liqueur packaged in a reusable glass bottle with a cork lid and paper labelling. The ‘Econauts’ team has developed ‘Libero’ – a 0% ABV Coffee Liqueur. Each member of the gold-winning team took home a share of £2,000 and a one-year IFST membership.
Watch the announcement below:
Now in its ninth year, Ecotrophelia UK is a ‘Dragons Den’ style competition that challenges teams of UK students to develop an innovative, eco-friendly food and drink product. From idea generation through to the final packaged product, the teams get a hands-on experience of what it takes to bring an eco-friendly food or drink product to market.
On 6 July 2021, the finalists pitched their products, via a video conference call, to the judging panel. The twelve ‘dragons’ watched all five presentations and assessed each product’s marketability, feasibility, and whether they conformed to competition rules and regulations. They also analysed each team’s business plan for its product. Following the presentations, they interviewed the teams, delving deeper into details about their products, including the packaging, branding, eco-friendliness and scalability of production. The winning team was announced online on 14 July 2021.
Even with the restrictions caused by COVID-19, competition has been fierce this year, for a place in the final and a slice of the £3,500 prize fund. Compared to previous years, the only element missing was the experience of tasting each product. Presentation skills were put to the test, and the judges found the innovation and ingenuity on show very inspiring and promising.
Jemima Willgoss a food science student at the University of Nottingham and Team Manager of ‘Econauts’, said, "We are so excited to have won the UK Ecotrophelia competition 2021! With the added pressures of Covid-19 and working remotely this year, we are so pleased to have been able to share our product with the judges and still be able to convey its delicious flavour and mouthfeel through Zoom! We are really looking forward to the challenge of the European final and can’t wait to see what amazing products the other teams have been developing."
Team Econauts will go on to compete against other national teams from across Europe for the chance to win up to €6,000 at the Ecotrophelia European final, which will take place during ANUGA in Cologne, Germany in October 2021.
Team ‘SeaFuel’ from the University of Reading secured the silver prize and £1,000 with their protein seaweed cracker crisps. The bronze prize and £500 was awarded to Team ‘Dino Dips’, also from the University of Reading with their gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan fortified lunchbox snack for young children.
IFST would like to also acknowledge the teams that made it to the finals, including Team ‘Re-Gen’ who created Re-Gen cereal bars made from seasonal ingredients grown through agroforestry farming principles and also Team ‘Edam and Eve’ who created high-protein, mixed berry plant-based smoothies made from whole ingredients, packaged into crafty edamame-derived cartons.
Helen Munday, President of IFST: “As always, Ecotrophelia has proven to be an excellent opportunity to develop and engage with the next generation of food scientists and technologists; bringing industry and our students together. The students were challenged to be innovative and environmentally conscious, and demonstrate leadership through their product development and presentations. As the food sector adapts to the COVID-19 situation, the students also had to adapt by presenting on a virtual platform. All the teams did a brilliant job in modifying their pitches to the 'dragons', and as a judging panel, we learnt a lot from them! It was a highly engaging event for all involved and the standards demonstrated by all the teams were of the highest level.
Now in its ninth year, the quality, complexity and innovation of the teams and their products improve year on year, and we were presented with some great examples of 'Imagineering' this year. Ecotrophelia is the perfect stepping stone into a career in our ever-developing sector and the highest placed teams from the University of Nottingham and the University of Reading demonstrated the great calibre of young talent we have coming through our educational system.”
The teams pitched their ideas to judges from top names in the food and drink industry including Diageo, Nestlé, Food Manufacture, Coca Cola, Sainsbury's, Unilever, Mondelez, Warburtons, Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) and Campden BRI.
Bertrand Emond, Membership Ambassador, Professional Development and Culture Excellence Lead at Campden BRI said, "We are delighted that we are continuing to attract and inspire the best food science and technology students to take part in Ecotrophelia. It’s a fantastic way for them to get exposure to some of the industry’s biggest players and potential future employers. Around 400 students from 20 different universities across the UK have now taken part since 2013 and we are very grateful for the continued support that competition receives from the industry sponsors. Innovation and creativity are essential for the continued success of the food industry and Ecotrophelia helps to achieve this”.
The UK heat of this Europe-wide competition was organised by UK food and drink research organisation, Campden BRI, in conjunction with the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST), the independent qualifying body for food professionals in Europe.