Designing products for Enzafoods
One term before beginning an awarded Royal Society of New Zealand Teacher Fellowship, Jo Calt developed a project with one of her industry hosts to create a unique learning experience for her Year 9 and 10 students, where they designed a new range of products for local food manufacturer ENZAfoods as part of their shift from the wholesale supply of fruit products to the retail market.
Jo worked with ENZAfoods representative Ian Eaton to create a brief that would work for her client, engage the students, and touch on multiple aspects of the curriculum.
To give the project a real industry context for the students and to see the production process first-hand, Jo started with a class visit to the ENZAfoods factory.
"ENZA have been moving steadily into this market over the last couple of years so I really wanted to encourage the students to come up with something new unique and exciting rather than just adapting a recipe. I was mindful of the Nature strand at first when I touched on some of the history of ENZAfoods which is right on our doorstep. The apple industry is huge here in Nelson, so it was really good to look at some of that and link it to the curriculum. Having to wear the plastic overalls and hats was one of the highlights for the students – for them to realise that you can't just rock up in your uncovered shoes or wear jewellery was really valuable for the project."
Jo and Ian then gave the students their brief in detail, explaining that their product must use ingredients available to ENZAfoods, be suitably packaged for the retail market, and reflect the needs of a recognised target group. They were then introduced to, and supplied with, ENZAfoods products such as purees, sauces, and sliced apples and apricots for use in their product development.
After evaluating some existing products in a sensory testing session, Jo organised several focussed practical tasks to ensure that the students' basic cooking skills were at the appropriate level and that they were aware of all the possibilities available to them.
"I wanted my students to produce a range of innovative products, not just 14 apple crumbles, so these lessons demonstrated the different uses of apples, such as baking and juicing. I also did a lesson using Massey's 'Additives are Good' mufti kit as one of the tasks in there is mixing milk and fruit juice, showing how it curdles and how their pectin product solves that issue, which I thought could be useful for a milk and fruit juice drink. I initially said I liked the idea as it sounded original, but I questioned the flavour combination of noodles with apple. However, his peers loved the taste and trials with his target audience – teenagers – were a great success. We were concerned that there was no point of difference with the crumble initially, but she had a think and came up with a frozen product. You heated the crumble in the oven and then served it with ice-cream which was included in a sachet inside the box".
The students were then given several weeks for the development of their product concept using internet research and brainstorming sessions to come up with some genuinely innovative and unconventional ideas, such as applets (a dessert similar to Turkish delight), meatballs in apple sauce, and, the most unlikely success, apple noodles.
Other students took a familiar product such as the classic kiwi apple crumble and, through the clever use of packaging, put a modern twist on it.
Throughout the project Jo acted as an intermediary between the students and the client, something she felt was a necessity given the large numbers of students and their ages. This role became more important as the project progressed and problems began to arise with the students' products.
"Ian couldn't really have 30 kids emailing him, so I'd talk to them, they'd do some troubleshooting and report back to me, and I'd pass the feedback onto Ian and ask him what he thought".
This system helped one group in particular, who thought that their apple sorbet wasn't 'applely' enough but didn't want to sacrifice the sorbet's texture by adding more apples. To remedy this, Ian supplied the students with apple aroma – a liquid essence extracted from apples with a strong smell that automatically triggers an apple flavour without changing texture when added to food.
Keeping students on track
For Jo, the biggest challenge was keeping the young students on track within the limited timeframe.
"There was a lot here for Year 9s and 10s to think about in such a short timeframe, so I just had to be well prepared, with every lesson well set up and structured. Sometimes, I would let the students go on the computers and have that wallowing time where they could be creative and come up with ideas, but generally it was a bit more 'get on with it'. I was very impressed with the ideas generated and the thought processes used to get their projects to completion," says Ian. "The creativity shown by the students in their products and packaging design is amazing, particularly given the time constraints they had with this project. They learned the importance of meeting a client's expectations and working to a deadline where they had to have things done with no extensions," says Jo. "I also think they really enjoyed coming up with their own unique product that they are really proud of".
The response to the project and its finished outcomes exceeded Jo's expectations, with both parents and the client extremely impressed with the students' creative outcomes and their proactive approach to the project both in and out of the classroom.
Jo is particularly happy with what the students took away from the project, with organisational, research, and testing skills well covered along with the unique experience of working with an established industry-level client.