Sweet Science

Food Science students design and produce a chocolate bar

Mizzou Crunch joins Tiger Stripe Ice Cream and products from the Mizzou Meat Market.

It’s crunch time at Mizzou – not football or final exams, but chocolate.

This week Mizzou Crunch, a chocolate bar designed by a team of University of Missouri food science students, goes on sale.  The creation is a real world experience for the students – taking a project from idea in the classroom to salable product and checking off all of the science, business, marketing and legal aspects in between.

Azlin Mustapha, associate professor of food science at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, organized the team of five students.  She collaborated with Alan “Patric” McClure, BA ’00, of Patric Chocolate of Columbia, Mo. to bring the bar to market.

Mustapha said the project originated as a way to give talented students a unique and hands-on experience outside of the classroom.  Partnering with a successful local business is a great way, she said, for students to see first-hand what is needed to develop a product and successfully bring it to store shelves.  This exposed the students not only to the chemistry and food processing studied in class, but to consumer preferences, legal and safety issues, cost containment, advertising and marketing, and working in a diverse team.

A Unique Addition to a Resume

Kayla Hauck, a food science junior from Columbia who plans a product development career, said the experience of creating Mizzou Crunch was an irreplaceable experience.  “This was the ideal example of brainstorming, designing, collaborating, changing, testing and prototyping a product,” she said. “It will be a tremendous boost to my career to say I’ve already helped bring a product to market.”

Alex Stokowski, a food science senior from Aurora, Ill., and Zico Jap, a food science senior from Indonesia, agreed that they have a more sophisticated view of what makes a product successful.  “I look at products on the store shelf now and realize what had to happen for them to get there,” Stokowski said.

Mizzou Crunch is handmade. Only 1,000 bars are made at a time.

Mustapha said the students had to adapt from theoretical concepts about product development to a real world situation where success is measured by profit and loss.  “They couldn’t voice an opinion without justification or facts,” she pointed out.  “They had to bring a deep knowledge of their proposals, present them succinctly and with passion, and be able to withstand dynamic and intense questioning.”

Mustapha said the students had to delve deeply into what makes a niche product successful.  “We wanted a product that had a strong Mizzou connection – what does that mean?” she said.  “It needed to be a premium product – what does that mean?  What does that mean in the Midwest, or New York or in Asia?  How should the packaging reflect the experience of eating the bar?”

This was McClure’s first experience at working with students.  He said he was surprised and pleased by their enthusiasm, and willingness to learn and throw out new ideas.

Things happen fast after the bars are molded. The roasted peanuts have to go onto the bars before they cool.

Not Factory Made

Patric Chocolate was founded in 2006 to please the palate of the most discriminating chocolate lover. McClure’s confections are not mass produced – they are handmade.

McClure started the company after finishing his studies at MU.  He had met a fellow student, Viviane Ducret from France, who later became his wife. They lived for a year in France and there McClure informally initiated his study of chocolate making. He frequented the Lyon-based chocolate maker Bernachon, which served as one of his main inspirations for his chocolate.

Patrick learned lessons about sourcing cultivated cacao from tropical venues as Mexico, Central and South America, and Madagascar where farmers grow, ferment and dry the raw material. He then gained experience in chocolate manufacturing – roasting beans, separating the shell and germ from the raw chocolate or nib, grinding and mixing with sugar.  He also learned the finer points of conching (intense, heated mixing), aging and molding.

McClure came back to Columbia with the dream of making products that appealed to connoisseurs and to be savored during special occasions.

His love and patience for his craft has been noticed.   Forbes Magazine listed Patric’s In-NIB-itable Bar on its 10 Truly Artisanal Foods to Try Now.  Food & Wine Magazine recommended his bars as America’s best new chocolate.  Patric Chocolate sells its products worldwide.

From Madagascar to You

Like the other creations, Mizzou Crunch is a handmade product – only 1,000 bars are made in each batch.  The recipe is cacao, organic cane sugar, whole milk, roasted peanuts and sea salt. The cacao beans are sourced from small family farms in Madagascar and Venezuela.

“The Mizzou Crunch bar is designed to be a unique taste experience, a layered and somewhat European experience,” Mustapha said.  “The first flavor you detect is the salt.  Then you experience the dark chocolate, followed by the milk chocolate taste.  Then, the taste and texture change altogether when you sense the roasted peanuts.”

But will it sell?  “I’ll buy it,” said Hauck.  “This thing is going to sell like crazy,” agreed McClure.

Proceeds from purchases will go back into the Food Science program to support future student projects.  The bar can be purchased through the Patric Chocolate website at: http://www.patric-chocolate.com/

The team that created Mizzou Crunch: Alan McClure, Alex Stokowski, Lana Merrick, Kayla Hauck, Lindsey Brock, Zico Jap and Azlin Mustapha.