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Chili Chocolate Chip Is Top Choice at UMass Ice Cream Competition

AMHERST — The winning flavor in this year’s UMass Amherst student ice-cream competition is chili chocolate chip, as selected by judges in the fourth annual food-science event held on campus April 30. It will become the latest UMass student-created ice cream produced by Maple Valley Creamery of Hadley over the coming weeks, said owner Bruce Jenks.

For the event, creamery staff, local chefs, and guest judges sampled original ice creams created by four teams of senior food-science majors vying for the honor of developing a new flavor for the UMass label. “This year we had a pretty clear winner,” Jenks said, but he complimented all four teams on their hard work, ambitious goals, and thinking outside the box. “This is the highlight of our spring at Maple Valley Creamery. We really appreciate the students’ enthusiasm and hard work.”

Jenks said a new feature in this year’s competition, the use of Equal Exchange ingredients in the student ice creams, is a valuable marketing point and “very cool.” Equal Exchange, which provided samples to teams throughout the semester, sources ingredients from small-scale farmers around the world and supports their local communities.

The three other entries in this spring’s competition were a butternut squash flavor with lemon zest, ginger, turmeric, and semi-sweet chocolate bits; a chocolate banana graham-cracker flavor; and a strawberry-basil flavor with dark chocolate pieces. The strawberry-basil, dubbed ‘summer blush’ by its creators, won the audience’s vote for best flavor, and Jenks said he may make a seasonal batch of it in the summer.

Members of the winning chili chocolate chip team are Marina Gela, Gina Grimaldi, Rachael Montigny, Joshua Liao, Erica Snyder, and Jozxelle Tongson. In their presentation, they said their flavor, which uses a spicy Mexican chocolate mix from Equal Exchange, plus cinnamon, chili mixture, and churro extract, matches a recent trend in consumer acceptability by using authentic ethnic foods sourced from small farms while meeting the standards of a premium ice cream.

The 24 students in four teams developed the new flavors for their senior capstone project in Assistant Professor Maria Corradini’s food processing class and lab. Their creations must stay under a price-per-pint cost limit while maximizing taste, aroma and texture. The students also identify sources of food allergens and make sure their formulations comply with ingredient-specific food-safety regulations, clean manufacturing standards, and natural-ingredient rules.

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