The Almond Board of California (ABC) announced the kickoff of its national Tastemaker Trials student competition, which invites US college and university students to create delicious almond-based snack products that excite the tastebuds of younger generations and set a new standard for “intentional indulgence” in snacks.
ABC’s Tastemaker Trials are an opportunity for the people who will be the future of the food and beverage industry to delve into the behind-the-scenes factors that go into developing a new product and to gain experience transforming trends into product concepts. Students will be asked to develop a new almond-based snack while considering technical, nutrition, processing and marketing information and demands. This year’s Tastemaker Trials are the next evolution of ABC’s first-ever student competition last year, which was held in collaboration with Drexel University.
“We are excited to host the Tastemaker Trials and to see all the great ideas students have across the country,” said Charice Grace, ABC’s Trade Marketing and Stewardship Manager. “We hope to be a great resource for young people as they enter the sphere of culinary innovation and incorporate almonds in new ways. I can’t wait to see what’s in store to shake up and add more value to the way we’ve been snacking!”
Leveraging AI-informed Trends
Tastewise is a generative AI platform that utilizes data to analyze food and beverage trends. Gen Z and Millennials are becoming more intentional about their snacking choices and opt for snacks in place of traditional meals. With that in mind, students are invited to use AI-informed consumption trends from Tastewise’s social media, recipes and restaurant menu data to inspire their own almond creations that go beyond simple satisfaction. ABC used Tastewise’s capabilities to analyze consumption data and highlighted these three trends to be used as inspiration during product development:
- Sharpening the Lens on Health: Gen Z and Millennials are moving away from “healthy” as a general claim, zooming in on specific and personalized areas like fitness, weight management, energy, gut health, blood sugar and stress relief.
- Eco-Conscious Eating: Top claims that resonate with Gen Z and Millennials include natural, organic, local produce, sustainability and food waste. Vegan is a prominent dietary claim as younger generations cite environmental and personal health reasons for going plant based.
- Connectivity Through Consumption: Younger consumers view food as a form of self-expression and are embracing smaller treats to meet personal needs and values. “Travel” and “friends” are the top two social setting subjects among Gen Z and Millennials. How can snacks provide an indulgent escape, represent globalizing palates or create shareable experiences?
The competition will be judged in two rounds. Preliminary written submissions are due Feb. 23, 2024. A panel of food and beverage industry experts will judge all eligible written submissions and select up to five finalist teams, who will develop sample prototypes, pitch their almond-based snack and participate in a Q&A with the judges in May. The winning team will be notified in late May, and the award for first place will include a trip and celebration at IFT FIRST in July 2024 and virtual mentorship opportunities.