Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Perks of Being a Food Scientist

After taking home a nice bag of goodies from the SCIFTS Suppliers' Night Expo on Wednesday, I felt incredibly lucky to be involved in an industry with such great benefits. It's no secret that the best parts about going to the trade shows and conventions are the free samples and branded knick knacks that companies hand out, and everyone I know takes advantage of each opportunity to get their hands on the things most people have to buy. Some of my most prized samples from that night included a two pound bag of almonds, a bottle of buffalo sauce, dried blueberries and apples, a bag of pistachios, and packets of various nuts and seeds. Although I went away with less "swag" than last year, the experience was much more fulfilling since I devoted more of my time talking to the exhibitors and checking them in.

A few of the Chapman students who attended Suppliers' Night. Excuse my demonic eyes...
(Image: Angelica Heres)

The same weekend of College Bowl was the Natural Products Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. Unlike Suppliers' Night, this event spanned three days and judging from what I saw, most of the attendees knew that in order to score the most product samples, they had to act strategically. That means finding parking close by for multiple unloading trips, carrying more than one bag (and bringing the kids to help you lug them around), and just plain old being sneaky. Of course, these companies are no strangers to this kind of behavior. Years of experience have taught them that they have to protect their goods, especially if they are of high value. Many companies taped down their products or displayed only empty wrappers but quite a few of them used man power to prevent their shelves from going empty. Employees would quickly run over to someone looking at their product to keep an eye on them or put their hand over the displays to prevent products from being taken. It happened to me many times at booths I was browsing even though I had no interest in the products. But I understand. Businesses are designed to create profit, which would be impossible if products are continually stolen. 

Despite these practices, I still managed to emerge with three bags stuffed with goodies. My roommates especially loved the vitamins, granola, and the gluten-free rosemary focaccia bread I brought home to share and I also got a few things I thought my friends would like. But as I looked proudly at my pile of products I really  began to appreciate the risk that these vendors take when handing out free samples. While well-known established companies can afford to give away large quantities of their goods, smaller companies, like those exhibiting on the Hot Products floor, have to take the risk of losing profit in order to gain customers. Business sure can be tricky...

My one-day haul

So thank you, Suppliers' Night and Natural Products Expo exhibitors, for allowing me to sample your products without charge. The gesture is sincerely appreciated and I will do my best to pay it forward.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Results of the Mountain West Area College Bowl!

The Mountain West Area College Bowl was held this past Saturday at Chapman University! Fortunately, the night before the games began, the teams were able to relax, get to know each other, and have fun as food science students rather than competitors at the annual Area Meeting. The festivities started with a delicious dinner spread provided by Sodexo which we enjoyed on tables cleverly decorated with laboratory glassware filled with fruit. The meal was then followed by a presentation delivered by Area Representative Jonathan Tong, who talked about current and future IFTSA plans. Also in attendance was Anna Ylijoki, Manager of Component Relations at the IFT headquarters in Chicago.

Each of the competing universities were then given a chance to showcase their schools by presenting a slideshow of the past year's events which included Valentines in a Can fundraisers at Brigham Young University, pumpkin bites at California State Polytechnic University Pomona, free cheese curds at Utah State University, California State Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo helping to alleviate child malnutrition, and the Proposition 37 panel at Chapman University.

But the best part of the night by far was the intense game of Food Science Feud where each of the four tables competed as a team in a Family Feud-inspired game. We learned that dad is most likely to feed the kids pizza when mom is away, chefs will probably throw their pots and pans at you if you criticize their food, and that Canada is one of the best beer-making countries, according to the (informal) surveys of 100 food scientists. Judging by the enthusiastic responses and constant laughter, everyone had an awesome time.

The day of the competition the teams and spectators were given a brief recap of the rules and introduction of the judges before beginning. The order in which schools would compete was determined the night before at the Area Meeting.

Although there were periods where none of the teams knew the answer (almost resulting in a shortage of toss-up questions), I've never seen a College Bowl where the competitors fought so strongly for the judges' approval of an answer. It really shows the passion and drive that these students have for winning the title of Regional College Bowl Champion.

In the end, Chapman University and BYU were the last two schools in the double elimination bracket. Chapman had already lost one round, and needed to beat BYU twice in order to win the game. Round 8 concluded with Chapman-12 BYU-0 so the final round was for the win. And with a score of 18 to 8....

CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY took home the title of Mountain West College Bowl Champion!!

The road to victory was not easy, but the most valuable lesson I learned from this experience was that persistence pays off. It's easy to get discouraged when you answer a question incorrectly or lose a whole round, but it's not the end of the world. You get another chance. And if you lose two rounds, your chance will come next year.

And even if our team didn't win the title this year, College Bowl still would have been an incredibly fun experience. I got to know my teammates better during our practices and I met such nice people at the Area Meeting. I can't wait to see them again at the IFT Annual Expo in Chicago!

And this was all thanks to an Area Representative who worked his butt off to make sure that everything was perfect and ran smoothly. I would like to extend a GARGANTUAN amount of gratitude to Jonathan Tong for nailing the task of executing such a successful and well thought out Area Meeting and College Bowl Competition. The bar has been set extremely high and I wish the next elected Mountain West Area Representative the best of luck trying to reach it!

If anyone has photos from the today's competition or last night's Area Meeting, please send them to me ( because I would love to post them up on the blog :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Nabisco's "Cookies vs. Creme" campaign inspired physicist David Neevel to build a complex machine that would separate an Oreo cookie from its creme filling. Driven by his dislike for the white stuff, he invented the Oreo Separator Machine (OSM) and created a video about it, which was shot at the Mad Dog Garage in Portland.

And although my former physics professor gave me somewhat of an aversion to the science, something tells me I wouldn't mind if David tried to teach me where the ball would land if it were rolled off a slanted rooftop onto a trampoline. He has a good (subtle) sense of humor, dotted with sarcasm, that fits a man with that size of a mustache.

“I didn’t get to see my girlfriend or my dog for hours at a time sometimes, and I had to try to find a good sandwich in this part of the city."