One of the biggest challenges that MSU Culinary Services faces is to find local products with good and consistent quality for university dining. The FPDL has worked with Montana food companies on improving the texture of products supplied to Culinary Services, including a pancake mix and a gluten-free granola.


Our researchers collaborated with undergraduate students in the Food Product Development Course to help local food vendors improve upon products that are supplied to Culinary Services. Two students applied for the Undergraduate Scholar Program (USP) and conducted at least one semester of research dedicated to understanding the product properties and improving its quality. The project then continued to the course phase. The food companies served as advisors and offered guest lectures to share their history, mission, marketing, and managerial logistics with the students in the course. The USP students served as mentors, introducing the current understanding of the products and the progress of the research. The course students then worked in two groups with their designated company advisor and the USP mentor to conduct product improvement studies. They learned from the USP mentors the experimental design and hands-on skills to handle and evaluate the products. The USP mentors benefited from brainstorming and working together with the course students to solve the product challenges. The course students also practiced communication skills via discussing with their company advisors about the expectations of the products. After the first half of the course, the two student groups, becoming familiarized with the products, developed a new product prototype via consulting with their advisors and mentors. In the last week of their class, they hosted a product showcase and presented to the public the outcomes from the product improvement study and their newly innovated products. The two companies thereafter had the chance to provide the improved or new products for the Culinary Services and contribute to the accessibility of local foods on the MSU campus.   

Product improvement challenges

Modifying pancake mix properties to increase pancake moisture retention
(Cream of the West, Harlowton)

Katy Hilburn, a Chemical Engineering student, led the project to improve Cream of the West's pancake mix. This MSU news article provides a summary of the project.

Stabilizing gluten-free granola texture (Gluten-Free Prairie, Manhattan)

Simone Paul, a Chemical Engineering student, led the project to improve Gluten-Free Prairie's granola texture. See more details in this article in The MSU Exponent.

Infographic demonstrating how the project integrated research, teaching, and community engagement

infographic showing the relationship between research, education, and community components of this project