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Fall 2019

On Henry Mall

A meringue cookie called Trinipea, which a team of food science students developed using aquafaba, the leftover liquid from the chickpea cooking process, earned second place at the International Food Technology Student Association & MARS Product Development Competition in May 2019. Photo courtesy of the trinipea team

Delicious desserts may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of chickpeas, but a team of food science students have whipped up a recipe to change that.

Last May, recent graduate Emon Ali Khadem BS’19 led a team of fellow students to compete with a product called Trinipea at the International Food Technology Student Association (IFTSA) & MARS Product Development Competition. Trinipea is a shelf-stable vegan meringue cookie that the students developed in vanilla, dark chocolate, and cacao nib flavors.

Whereas traditional meringue cookies rely on whipped egg whites to achieve their light, delicate texture, for Trinipea, the students turned to aquafaba, the leftover liquid from the chickpea cooking process. Aquafaba has a high protein and carbohydrate content, allowing it to be whipped into a foam just like egg whites.

It took more than 56 trials and recipe adjustments to arrive at the finished product formulation. Early versions were too fragile to ship. With each iteration, the team worked to increase hardness, density, foam stability, and crunch.

“The Trinipea meringue is dry but quite aerated, so it melts in your mouth,” Khadem says. “Think Halo Top, but instead of ice cream, a dried sweet treat.”

The meringue was tasty and creative enough to earn second place at the competition. More than 25 university teams submitted proposals to be a part of the event, and the Trinipea team was one of just six selected to compete in the finals.

The innovative dessert idea grew from a desire to solve a problem.

“Each day, Americans eat two and a half times the daily recommended value of sugar, 40% of the world’s harvested food is wasted, and dessert options don’t necessarily account for dietary restrictions,” explains Khadem, who has just begun a career at PepsiCo in research and development. “We wanted to make something allergen free, low in sugar, and sustainable.”

The meringues are sweetened with a specialized Stevia variant that lends a more typical sugar taste with fewer off-flavors and less bitterness. A serving of 12 meringues contains only 70 calories.

The idea to use aquafaba to make Trinipea was inspired during one of four field trips integrated into the food science department’s food manufacturing class. During a tour of a facility that treats dairy waste streams in Richland Center, Wisconsin, the chemical engineers stressed the important role of food science innovation in solving food waste issues.

“It made us determined to reduce waste by upcycling ingredients from other processes,” says Khadem.

In creating Trinipea, the team applied a lot of what they learned about product development as members of the UW Food Science Club. The team also got help from Discovery to Product, a campus program that connects aspiring entrepreneurs with experienced commercialization and innovation specialists who are veteran business developers, entrepreneurs, product managers, and start-up executives. 

While the Trinipea team is not planning to introduce the product to the marketplace, members are optimistic that something like it will appear on shelves within the next couple of years. It’s not uncommon for food companies to turn some of the student-developed concepts presented during the IFTSA & MARS Product Development Competition into new commercial products.

Other Trinipea team members include recent graduates Emily Bruhn BS’19, Christie Cheng BS’19, Rachel Fehring BS’19, Dana McMorrow BS’19, and Elisabeth Weir BS’19, and current food science students Will Northway, Liana Rodier, and Yesha Shah.

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