The UK team took second place and €4,000 (£3,562) in prize money with its innovative Yasai Caulirice Sushi – vegetarian sushi-style rolls made with cauliflower rice – at the European Trophy Student Food Innovation awards held on November 21 and 22 at Food Matters Live in London.
Commenting on the award, Yasai team member Natasha Patel said: “It feels surreal to get a silver medal in the European competition among some incredibly strong entries across Europe.
“After winning the UK competition, our team worked with mentors from the Institute of Food Science and Technology, Marks & Spencer, Coca-Cola, Sainsbury, Mondelēz International and Campden BRI to make Yasai Caulirice as strong as it could be and we’re grateful for their amazing advice which contributed to the prize.”
In June, the Reading team won the UK leg of this year’s Ecotrophelia Awards in a contest dominated by vegetarian and vegan products.
Impressed the team of judges
Yasai impressed the team of judges in a format styled after the BBC programme Dragon’s Den, taking home the gold prize and £2,000.
Shortlisted students pitched their ideas to a distinguished panel of top food industry specialists, including representatives from Marks & Spencer, Coca-Cola, Food Manufacture, Mondelēz, PepsiCo, Sainsbury, Tesco, Unilever and Warburtons.
Team member Pavandeep Matharu added: “It’s great to see our idea grow from a university project to a successful final product.
“We looked into the growing trends of veganism, and replacing carbohydrates with vegetables to create a lower calorie lunch. We would like to thank the University for their continued support throughout this competition.”
Now in its fifth year, Ecotrophelia challenges teams of students from across Europe to develop an innovative, eco-friendly food and drink product from idea generation through to the final packaged product.
Gold prize winners
This year’s gold prize winners were the Greek team for its avocado and Greek Yogurt whey smoothie beverage called Avoyog. The bronze prize was awarded to the team from Slovenia for its whey-based fruit dairy product with added millet called OnMyWhey.
Bertrand Emond, head of membership and training at Campden BRI said: “This is the second year in a row that a UK team has had success at the European finals and we are delighted for the University of Reading team.
“The food industry faces fundamental challenges including reducing our environmental impact, meeting growing global demand for food and producing more from less as pressure increases on resources. We must support efforts to nurture and drive innovation in the industry that helps us to meet these challenges.”
Meanwhile, last year, a team of two UK food science graduates from Nottingham Trent University won the bronze prize at the European final of Ecotrophelia at the food exhibition Sial in Paris.
The team scooped the third place prize – and a cheque for €2,000 (£1,781) – for its low-fat, non-dairy ice cream called Från Början, made with algal protein.