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Ministry of Education.
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Cheesecake mix

Research images.

Research images.

When food technology student Hana Black developed a dehydrated yoghurt-cheesecake mixture suitable for the EasiYo product line, she had to investigate ingredients and trial flavour combinations to ensure her dessert was tasty yet relatively healthy.

Hana took food technology for the first time in year 13, so had to catch up on all the knowledge and skills required for a level 3 project. She had done materials technology in the previous two years, however, so was able to transfer the generic technology knowledge learned there into a different context.

Hana considered potential clients but didn't have any luck with her first choice. Fortunately, Futureintech Facilitator Rod Hare contacted Tracy Zhao, nutrition specialist at EasiYo Products, who agreed to be her client. Told she had a meeting the next day, Hana had to work fast to read about the company, prepare questions and consider what she might work on. In that meeting, Tracy discussed her role in New Product Development (NPD) and noted that Hana's stated interest in developing a cheesecake mix was good timing as her team had started trialling new flavours to extend their cheesecake line for export to the UK where, because most of it is sold (in bulk) for school lunches, there were strict guidelines on sugar and fat content.

Hana's brief stated that she would develop a cheesecake mix suitable for the EasiYo range that would appeal to the wider public as well as school communities. She had previously researched NPD in local food products, social/economic influences on food choices and international trends, and found that there is increased demand for food "treats" perceived as "guilt-free". Hana researched cheesecake mixes on the New Zealand and UK markets, the technical aspects of developing such a product and consumer groups most likely to buy it.

Before beginning her EasiYo development, Hana trialled a similar product on the market, to compare it with the yoghurt version, and evaluated the production stages for the consumer, appearance, base, filling and texture. She ran a product acceptability test, asking 14 people to taste the cheesecake and fill in a questionnaire about appearance, taste, texture and suggested improvements.

Hana then trialled an EasiYo cheesecake mix, running a sensory testing in which 15 participants filled in a questionnaire on appearance, firmness, texture and "mouth feel". She also discussed the results with some of the respondents, getting additional detail for some of their answers. Hana trialled another cheesecake, partly as practise to ensure she was getting consistent results and also to have people taste samples again.

The nutritional standards for UK schools not only restricted the amounts of certain ingredients but also required a specific nutrient content. Hana had been interested in making a chocolate cheesecake, thinking this would be a popular choice, but knew that this could be problematic given that she had to produce something reasonably healthy. As she would be creating a new flavour with a new set of ingredients, she couldn't rely on EasiYo calculations of energy/calorie levels, fat, sugar, etc. Hana also had to consider the amounts of certain ingredients she would need to meet the required level for particular elements, such as calcium.

Hana brainstormed potential flavour combinations and showed her ideas to Tracy and Rod at their third meeting. She researched the technical aspects of making yoghurt as well as its nutritional benefits, and did market research into cheesecake products available in New Zealand and the UK. Because her product was aimed at the UK market, Hana needed to know which flavours were most popular there so emailed the EasiYo UK sales representative for comment. She also contacted UK company Yummy Cheesecakes to ask about their most popular flavours (chocolate and lemon) and checked comments about cheesecake from English people on Yahoo Answers.

To get feedback from her target age group, Hana created a Facebook page and asked people to fill in her online questionnaire, limiting the page to UK participants aged 13-18. Unfortunately she only received four responses through this initiative, so she decided to create a group to act as key stakeholders. She asked a number of Carmel College students who were born or had lived in the UK to fill out a survey on potential flavour combinations and, of the 22 respondents, nine agreed to become part of her sensory testing group.

During this time Hana had several meetings with Tracy to discuss progress and conducted more trials of EasiYo cheesecakes. The flavour survey had showed that cookies and cream, strawberry and custard, mint and chocolate were the most popular so she decided to trial these.

As she considered the function of the ingredients in EasiYo cheesecake mixes, Hana wondered if the yoghurt mixes themselves could be used as flavouring. She trialled three cheesecakes – making one as directed on the package and using EasiYo yoghurt mixes for flavouring in the others. She ran a product acceptability test and asked participants to fill in a written questionnaire. As expected, the cheesecake mix was liked and tasters also liked the cheesecake made with Greek'n Coconut yoghurt from the recently launched "and bits" range. However, the sample made with Apple and Blackberry yoghurt "tasted horrible". Although she planned to incorporate her own flavour combinations, this trial showed Hana that some of the yoghurts could be used as an easy way to flavour a cheesecake. (To model and test her ideas and to save time, for some of her trials Hana made half-size cheesecakes and left out the base).

Finished product, cookies and cream cheesecake.

Finished product, cookies and cream cheesecake.

Hana trialled the three preferred concepts from her earlier survey – strawberries and custard, toffee and apples, mint and chocolate – explaining to tasters that they needed to drink water in between tasting each sample and taste them in a specific order, with the mint being last because it is a stronger taste. She used custard powder and dried strawberries for the first cheesecake, with samplers agreeing that they liked the taste but that the texture of the strawberries was unpleasant. Hana says it was also hard working out the right amount of custard to ensure a clearly definable flavour. She used toffee-flavoured yoghurt for the second mixture, and notes that using a ready-made product for the flavouring saved both time and money. This cheesecake tasted good, though if making it again Hana would adjust the ingredients to add more flavouring. However, the toffee pieces began to "run" after being left out at room temperature, an issue which she would need to be address if developing the concept.

The mint and chocolate cheesecake, made with freshly-made plain yoghurt and chocolate mints, was a clear favourite. However, Hana says, the chocolate pieces were quite sticky and "wet" and would get stuck in the machine if included as "bits". She decided to trial her cookies and cream concept as well, as this had been a popular choice. She made it using pieces of a commercial chocolate creme biscuit. Tasters liked this cheesecake but thought it should have a creamier, less yoghurt taste. Because the biscuits had been beaten with the mixture rather than folded in, they crumbled which gave the product a dark grey look. Tasters commented that this made the cheesecake look rather unappealing.

After investigating the creme biscuits and finding they were flavoured with vanilla, Hana trialled the cookies and cream cheesecake again. The obvious constraint in making a dried mix is that common ingredients such as vanilla essence can't be used. Hana tried to find a powdered type, but the closest thing was a vanilla bean dusting sugar which she used in three cheesecakes. One version was too mild-tasting and the other too strong and even the best tasting cheesecake still had a slight 'aftertaste' of the dusting sugar. During a meeting with Tracy, Hana realised that EasiYo keeps a vanilla flavouring in stock. Using this would be easier and more economical than buying an extra ingredient and it would contain less fat than if she tried using the crème filling from the biscuits for added flavour.

Hana had to consider the additional cost of using biscuits in this recipe, because they would be an expensive extra for EasiYo to buy. Commercial food manufacturers often have to substitute with a cheaper ingredient, so Tracy suggested that as well as trialling the vanilla flavouring Hana could trial a chocolate flavouring held in stock, to see if that would work in place of the biscuits. Hana made two cheesecakes with different amounts of vanilla flavouring, deciding that, although they tasted good, they would be better with a smaller amount. She made another two with 0.3 and 0.4 grams of flavouring, finding that the larger amount was better.

Rather than replacing the biscuits in her trials, Hana reduced the amount from 55 to 40 grams and made cheesecake with 0.5 and 1 grams of the chocolate flavouring. She says that 1gram made for a terrible taste, while the lesser amount was better but still not particularly nice. After trialling a third cheesecake with even less chocolate flavouring, Hana concluded that it didn't taste very good so she wouldn't use it. Her final (full-size) outcome included 80 grams of biscuits and 0.8 grams of vanilla flavouring.

Hana was happy with her final formulation, and her calculations showed that it met all the requirements making it suitable to be served in a UK school and was under the limits for fat and sugar. Her sensory-testing group rated it "delicious", "yummy" and "scrumptious", while Tracy was impressed that it met both consumer tastes and the company's budget.

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