Student Team from California Wins ISU Space Center Food Competition

April 28th, 2003

AMES, Iowa — A student team from Chapman University in Orange, Calif., took home the top prize for their bite-sized pizza snack in a contest where new foods for space travelers are developed. The competition was sponsored by the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center (FTCSC) at Iowa State University.

Students Gerrie Adams, Pei-Chen Chen, Wan-Lin Chou, Akua Kwakwa and Heather Pe developed the winning entry with their adviser, Anuradha Prakash, associate professor of food science and nutrition at Chapman.

Pizza Poppers come in three flavors — original pizza flavor, garlic and hot and spicy. The snacks do not contain chemical additives. They do include tomatoes, wheat, onions and herbs, all crops that could potentially be grown on a moon or Mars outpost. The Pizza Poppers dough recipe utilizes okara and wastewater, both byproducts of soymilk processing in space. The product is vacuum packaged and has a minimum shelf life of one year.

"It is quite a challenge to create a product that meets the constraints of space and has a market on Earth," Prakash said. The students agreed they found the contest challenging. "In addition to acquiring a great deal of knowledge while working on this project, the whole team enjoyed the challenge of trying to adapt our earthly Pizza Poppers into a product that would fit the nutritional needs of the astronauts, provide them with a tasty, fun snack, and meet all the criteria for the contest," Adams said.

Besides being well suited for space travel, Pizza Poppers also should be of interest in the terrestrial market. Pizza is a $30 billion a year industry and consumers spend another $3 billion a year on pizza-related sauces and snacks. One serving of Pizza Poppers contains 20 calories.

"Pizza Poppers is a creative, nutritious and tasty snack," said Cheryll Reitmeier, NASA FTCSC education mission specialist and coordinator of the competition. "Astronauts love bite-sized snacks because they are easy to eat and do not produce crumbs. The spicy flavor of Pizza Poppers also will be appealing in space."

The NASA FTCSC Product Development Competition was established in 2001 to increase awareness among food science and technology students about foods and food-processing techniques required for space travel. Student teams from universities across the United States are challenged to design food products or processing systems that could be used on missions to the moon or planetary outposts. The products must be based on crops grown in space, easily prepared, nutritious, safe to eat, have few crumbs and taste good. Three NASA food scientists and three industry representatives evaluated the student proposals and products.

The Chapman University team earned a trip to the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo and reg;, in Chicago, Ill., July 12-16 to showcase their product idea. The students also will have the opportunity to present their Pizza Poppers to scientists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston in November.

The NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center was established in 1999 to develop foods and food-processing technologies that enhance space missions and advance commercial food products. More information about the competition and the NASA center at Iowa State can be found at www.ag.iastate.edu/centers/ftcsc/.

Contacts: 

Cheryll Reitmeier, NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center, (515) 294-4325
Katherine Carlson, NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center, (515) 296-5387
Susan Thompson, Ag Communications Service, (515) 294-0705