Face-a-Doodles Team
The Face-a-Doodles Team

During the 2020 edition of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) annual conference, held virtually on July 13-15, two Macdonald Campus Food Science teams representing McGill competed as finalists in the prestigious 2020 Smart Snacks for Kids Product Development Competition and the 2020 Developing Solutions for Developing Countries Competition.

“The IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo is the largest technology- and innovation-focused food event in the world, with more than 23,000 science of food professions attending the meeting,” explained Associate Professor Dr. Salwa Karboune, who teaches the FDSC 405 Food Product Development course, in which the two teams developed their projects beginning last fall.

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the IFT decided to transition the in-person annual event to a virtual experience this year. Both teams will present their products virtually.

Global competition

Student teams from across the world vie for top honours and cash prizes in several competitions. This year McGill’s teams are finalists alongside those from universities in Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia and the U.S. In the Developing Solutions for Developing Countries Competition, the team from Macdonald Campus is the only finalist that is not representing an American university.


Competing for McGill in the Smart Snacks for Kids Product Development Competition, team members Valerie Ivanova, Karina Guerrera, David Erazola, Emmanuelle Bonin and Amalie Younes developed a product called Face-a-Doodles.

According to the product description, “Face-a-Doodles is an allergen-free and vegan kids’ snack that will revolutionize lunch boxes everywhere! We believe that fun shouldn’t stop at recess; why not let kids aged 5 to 12 design, make and enjoy their food as well? With expressive cookie faces, kids can use our squeezable pulse butter and raspberry jam to make their very own design, then sandwich it in between two cookies. Face-a-Doodles are healthier than your conventional peanut butter and jelly. Along with being fun, the kids’ snack is a rich source of vitamins A, B, C and E, minerals, calcium and iron, along with fibre and valuable protein. Each serving of the snack is comprised of two cookies and a squeezable pulse butter and jam pack.”

Team leader Valerie Ivanova expressed her anticipation when interviewed in late June: “We are extremely excited to be able to present together for the IFT competition. This project has been the culmination of many months of hard work, and we are finally able to materialize our big ideas and plans for Face-A-Doodles.”

Ivanova added that they “were inspired to create this product because of the lack of delicious snack options for kids that were peanut-free and vegan. The idea of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich that contained no nuts was novel and exciting for us to develop as food scientists!”

Stewpidgood Kilishi

Stewpidgood Kilishi Team
Dr. Salwa Karboune (top row centre) meeting with the Stewpidgood Kilishi Team on Zoom

Team members Xinrui Li, Wenhui Zhang, François Girouard and Lucas Wise are representing McGill in the 2020 Developing Solutions for Developing Countries Competition with their creation Stewpidgood Kilishi. The product description gives more insight into the needs met by the invention.

“Stewpidgood Kilishi combines spiced and dried yams, okra and eggplant to produce a twist on the popular Nigerian dried meat Kilishi (like beef jerky). These vegetables are heavily produced in Nigeria, but are prone to post-harvest spoilage due to their high moisture content and poor storage conditions. As such, Stewpidgood Kilishi allows for the subversion of post-harvest vegetable losses in Africa’s largest and fastest growing country by population (nearly 200 million people). It can be eaten as a delicious stand-alone food or rehydrated in soups and stews, staple Nigerian meals.

“This product is nutrient dense, providing 4g of protein and 5g of dietary fibre per serving, as well as 78% of the daily value for vitamin A, whose staggering deficiencies continue to affect women and young children in rural Nigerian communities. The vitamin A content primarily originates from the yams, okra and a traditional Nigerian Suya spice blend, many of whose components are also prone to post-harvest loss in Nigeria.”

Successful history

Dr. Karboune has a solid record of student success in the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association (IFTSA) competitions. In both 2015 and 2016, two teams coached by Karboune won the IFTSA Developing Solutions for Developing Countries Competition and IFTSA & MARS Product Development Competition, respectively.

Caroline Lafleur in the Mattson Co. labs. Photo by Danikka B. Semana, Brand & Innovation Project Manager at Mattson Co.

Caroline Lafleur, MSc (Food Science)’16, was a member of the winning IFTSA & MARS Product Development Competition McGill team in 2016, which developed a plant-based burger dubbed “Rephyll.” She is now a Senior Food Technologist at Mattson Co. in California, the largest independent food and beverage innovation firm in the U.S. “When I started working here 3 years ago, I would describe Mattson as ‘Disneyland for food scientists,’ and I still do!” Lafleur explains.

For Lafleur, the IFTSA competition had a direct impact on her life: “I can say without a doubt that the IFTSA Product Development Competition really influenced my career path. It is the reason I heard about the Food Science program at McGill in the first place. I read an article about a team out of McGill labs that developed a shelf-stable ice cream, and I thought it was the coolest thing!

“A few years after reading that article, as a Food Science student, I was lucky enough to be part of the same IFTSA competition, armed with a bleeding plant-based burger made out of upcycling ingredients, and an awesome team! This competition really allowed us to pique the curiosity of some industry professionals and make meaningful connections, which facilitated our entry to the job market.

“By pure coincidence, I also won a book titled Taste, written by Barb Stuckey, the president of Mattson. This book made me decide to move to California and work at Mattson, where my work still focuses on plant-based meat. It was with the help of another McGill alumnus, Anton Angelich, BSc(FSc)’73, the VP Marketing at Virginia Dare, that I was fortunate to get an introduction to Mattson.”

As of the date of publication, we are awaiting the results of the competition. We will provide an update on the results as soon as they are available.