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Experiential learning at the root of U of G ice cream venture

'Once we launch this project, we will be selling it like a retail product to people in the university, but likely, largely outside the university'

To help students create a new line of ice cream products, the University of Guelph wants to know your ice cream preferences.

Recently, the Guelph Innovation Food Centre released a survey online for residents to fill out about ice cream. The project is still in development, but the results can help influence a project for food science students to work on in the upcoming school year.

“We put that out there just to sort of get a rough idea so we can make broad stroke decisions, just to see if there are any dominant views,” said Derek Vella, director of the Guelph Innovation Food Centre and professor in the department of food science, about the survey.

“What we're finding with some of the questions that we've asked, is that there tends to be a clear winner in every one of those categories."

While the details are still being worked out, Vella said he hopes to have groups of students working on a project each month at the pilot plant.

“I hope that we would see almost the entire food science department working, at some point, on it,” he said, adding the project would also involve other departments, like marketing or commerce students.

Working at the pilot dairy plant is one way the university is hoping to provide students with more experiential learning opportunities. When the university switched to virtual learning last year, Vella explains students missed out on a lot of hands-on opportunities. 

This year, he said it was important to have the students involved in the project to get familiar with product development, working with ingredients and focusing on consumer needs. 

“Not a lot of them when they are still students, get to work in an environment where they can not only see the development arch, going from an idea, to a finished product, to then going to a consumer, and it’s even rarer for them to have some sort of stewardship over that,” he said.

In the summer of 2019, Vella recalls launching a line of vegan ice cream on campus, but it didn’t get the results they were expecting due to the lack of people on campus.

“It wasn't as successful as we hoped so this idea is kind of a continuation of that,” said Vella about this upcoming ice cream project, “There’s a lot of interest in it, but we didn’t have enough bodies, so our solution is to open it up to the community.”

The plant, which has been running on campus for over a couple of years now, makes a hundred food products every year, from cheese to protein powder. Currently, students from the food science program are also involved in making hot sauce.

With plans to launch the ice cream next spring, Vella mentions now is a good time for people to submit their favourite flavours and more.

“Once we launch this project, we will be selling it like a retail product to people in the university, but likely, largely outside the university so anyone will be able to buy it.”

To fill out the survey, click here.