But in March 2015, the Versailles FFA Chapter had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and conduct a food science project to develop a brand-new flavor for Velvet Ice Cream.
“Students in our Food Science and Technology class worked in groups of two or three to design a new ice cream variety,” says Dena Wuebker, agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor at Versailles High School. “The ice cream variety had to be a flavor Velvet was not currently selling, and each student group had to start with a vanilla or chocolate based ice cream.”
Wuebker worked with Velvet Ice Cream to create a curriculum for students to learn how to become ice cream makers, from inventing unique flavor profiles to packaging, shrink-wrapping and marketing the final product.
“We try to show students the science behind ice cream production,” says Nathan Arnold, marketing manager at Velvet Ice Cream and a former FFA member. “We really value education and teaching youth about agriculture and food science. It’s a growing industry, and Velvet Ice Cream looks for employees who have a food science background.”
The students began by consulting Chef Michael Delligatta from the Inn of Versailles to create their flavor profiles. He offered suggestions and sampled flavors the students created.
“The chef was helpful in getting students to think outside the box as well as to enhance their flavors, so they didn’t just taste like vanilla,” Wuebker says. “A few students completely scrapped their first idea. One group of boys initially wanted to make fish taco ice cream.”
The flavors the students decided upon include lemon ginger, peanut butter and jelly, banana nut bread with salty caramel, red velvet s’mores, cinnamon sugar donuts, wittles with Skittles, berry lemonade sweet tea, and green apple Jolly Rancher.
Students developed the front and back label of an ice cream container, including a nutritional label for each variety, and created a marketing plan.
Taste tests were conducted at Versailles High School, where students chose their three favorites: red velvet s’mores, lemon ginger and banana nut bread with salty caramel.
Then those three flavors were taken to the Ohio State FFA Convention in April 2015 to be sampled by FFA members, parents, alumni and sponsors from across the state. Representatives from Velvet Ice Cream also sampled the flavors, and lemon ginger was their favorite.
“We liked the lemon ginger most because it had a ginger candy inclusion, which gave the lemon a spicy kick,” Arnold says. “It’s a flavor we are considering adding to our lineup for a 2016 limited edition variety.”
Regardless of what career path students choose, Wuebker says the food science project was worthwhile for all 22 students who participated.
“It helped them understand the process of making a product and understand there are regulations, such as FDA or USDA standards, you have to comply with,” she says. “They also learned how a business markets a product because they had to market their own product. The students really enjoyed it – many said it was their favorite part of the school year.”
In July 2015, three members of Versailles FFA were invited to do a presentation about their ice cream project on opening day of the Ohio State Fair in the “Ag is Cool” Center.
Versailles High School offered the Food Science and Technology course for the first time in 2014-15, and Wuebker plans to continue teaching it every other year.
“We change our courses to meet demands in the industry, and there are more than 1,000 food processing plants in Ohio,” she says. “About 50 percent of those plants are within 50 miles of our school, so that’s one reason we felt the need to teach this class. Ohio is fifth in the nation for food processing plants, so there’s a huge demand for workers in the food science field.”