Focusing on a tagline of “fat isn’t a flaw, it’s our feature,” food science students at the Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed Keto Kups, a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, hand-held mini meal designed to appeal to the keto dieter. The first concept by the Ketotizit! startup team is a buffalo chicken variety.

“I don’t exactly know how the cup came about, but it did,” said Keelin Frank, a senior food science major and Ketotizit! team leader. “It just worked.”

Keto Kups resemble miniature quiches. The buffalo chicken variety is based on a blend of cheeses and shredded dark meat chicken (higher in fat than white meat) in a crispy, low-carbohydrate crust, with one portion providing 320 calories and containing 28 grams of fat, 13 grams of protein and a mere 4 grams of carbohydrates.

Source: Keto Kups

At the beginning of the fall semester, students in Prof. Dawn Bohn’s 400-level food science course were assigned the task of developing an on-trend product. They partnered with undergraduate business students from Gies College of Business, who consulted with the food science teams and provided advice about consumer awareness, supply chain factors, unique distribution channels and improved product marketing techniques. One of seven innovation teams, Ketotizit! was named the winner of the university’s “Food Innovation Product Pitch.”

“Since food innovation is extremely consumer driven, the development of successful novel food products cannot be optimized by scientists alone. The Gies business student mentors provided each team with new, business-related perspectives throughout the development process,” Bohn said. “In my opinion, while our food scientist students have excelled year after year in the scientific approach to food innovation, incorporating business mentorship this year enabled the teams to gain valuable new insights across a greater spectrum of the food innovation process.”

Members of the Ketotizit team

The business partners, for example, encouraged the innovation teams to incorporate trending ingredients and flavors to make the products more marketable. With their assistance, Charlie Stahurski, senior food science major and Ketotizit! team member identified hemp hearts (seeds of the hemp plant that are high in fat and protein) as being a useful ingredient for nutrition, taste and texture.

“The crispy crust is composed of mainly ground hemp hearts,” Stahurski said. “They are very popular with consumers.”

The Ketotizit! Team will be entering Keto Kups in other innovation contests in the near future.