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Isabel Alster ‘18, Jessica Kwong ‘18 and Kaitlin Steinleitner ’19 at Food Summit China in November.

Students’ vegan jerky an international hit at Chinese food conference

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Lindsey Hadlock

Three Cornell students brought home second-place honors from a global product development competition for their original vegan jerky snack.

Isabel Alster ’18, Jessica Kwong ’18 and Kaitlin Steinleitner ’19, representing Cornell’s 2016-17 Institute of Food Technologists’ Student Association (IFTSA) & Mars Product Development Team, presented Jack’d Jerky to judges at the Food Summit China conference hosted by the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology, Nov. 8-9, in Wuxi, China.

Jack’d Jerky gets its name from its core ingredient, shredded jackfruit, which has a texture similar to pulled pork. The team, which included undergraduates majoring in food science, biometry and statistics, and chemical engineering, as well as a graduate student in the field of food science, started working on the product in fall 2016. Along with jackfruit, the product includes hydrated pea protein base and blended tomato and herbs; after slicing and baking, the vegan, gluten-free treat looks and tastes similar to meat.

Jackfruit itself is large with a spiny rind. In capitalizing on this savory tree fruit, the Cornell team created a meatless product that is environmentally sustainable and makes use of agricultural products grown in Asia.

“Our team really focused on creating a food product that current consumers want,” said Kwong. “Our initial brainstorms were the product of extensive market research – learning which ingredients, products, dietary needs, etc., were trendy right now.”

In June, the team – which also included Halle Bershad ’17, Will Borchert ’17, Alexa Capano ’17, Molly Mandel ’17, Micah Martin ’17, Anna Xu ’17 and Brandon Yep ‘17 – won first place in the 2017 IFTSA & Mars Product Development competition in Las Vegas.

“People are looking for convenient snacks with high protein, but want it to come from plant-based sources,” Kwong said. “Jack’d Jerky is a completely plant-based jerky that is a good source of protein and hits upon popular dietary trends, so we made sure it really caters to what the current market wants – and I think our first-place win at IFT ’17 and now our second-place win at Food Summit China affirms that.”

The summit attracted food scientists from across China and the U.S. It was sponsored by Jiangnan University, Nanjing Agricultural University, Jiangsu University and the Jiangsu Institute of Food Science and Technology.

Melanie Greaver Cordova is communications coordinator for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


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