Cornell's Jack'd Jerky selected as food contest finalist

Jack'd Jerky
Cornell's Jack'd Jerky, a nutritious vegan and gluten-free on-the-go snack, is a finalist for the Institute of Food Technologists’ Student Association & Mars Product Development Competition.

Be fit. Feel healthy. Get jacked on Jack’d Jerky.

Cornell’s Jack’d Jerky – a nutritious vegan and gluten-free on-the-go snack – has been selected one of six finalists for the Institute of Food Technologists’ Student Association & Mars Product Development Competition June 25-28 in Las Vegas.

“It’s a refreshing reprieve from the salt- and sugar-laden meat jerky currently on the market. It’s better for you than traditional jerky, all without sacrificing the flavor and texture,” said Jessica Kwong ’18, co-captain of the team. “Jack’d Jerky will appeal to health-conscious millennials who are seeking new, novel products.”

Made from shredded jackfruit, an up-and-coming fruit popular in Asia, and a hydrated pea protein base blended with tomato and herbs, the students spread it onto baking sheets, chill, cut into squares and bake into a final product that mimics the texture and appearance of meat, Kwong said.

In addition to Kwong and co-captain Brandon Yep ’17, team members are Isabel Alster ’19, Halle Bershad ’17, Will Borchert ’17, Alexa Capano ’17, Molly Mandel ’17, Micah Martin, M.S. ’17, Kaitlin Steinleitner ’19 and Anna Xu ’17.

For the finals, Cornell faces tough competition from Michigan State University’s Bazza Bar, Penn State’s Cado Cakes, Rutgers’ Q-Wrap, Virginia Tech’s ViaLift and the University of Wisconsin’s RiseUp.

The Cornell group initially brainstormed product ideas by focusing on ingredients, diets or types of products that were growing in the market. A team member mentioned jackfruit has a “pulled-pork” consistency and takes in flavors well. Further, the team learned that jackfruit formed into jerky well, and it was sustainable for Asian agricultural economies and the environment.

“We wanted to use jackfruit as the basis of our jerky and position it not only toward those who eat jerky, but also vegans and people who eat gluten-free foods,” said Yep.

Jackfruit use is creating smart snacking options. “Combining its two features – as a meat substitute and a nutritious ingredient – into one product allows us to take advantage of both trends, as well as target the growing markets of better-for-you snack consumers and vegans,” Yep said.

What does Jack’d Jerky taste like? The team aimed for an Italian summer garden flavor with hints of fresh herbs and tomato. The group conducted taste testing on campus. Said Yep: “Based on tests from prospective consumers, we have very favorable results on this flavor combination.”

Since 1991 when the Institute of Food Technologists’ Student Association & Mars Product Development competition started, the Cornell product development team has won six times: Pizza Pop-Ups, a toaster-ready pizza (1995); Stir-Ins, a pencil-shaped cookie with heat-resistant chocolate and flavoring on the tip for dunking in coffee (1996); Wrapidos, a cone-shaped, tortilla-style wrap (1998); Dough TEMPtations (2012); Squashetti (2013); and Popples (2014).

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Joe Schwartz