The faces of eighth-graders in teacher Jill Koulos’ foods class twisted in displeasure after sampling chocolate milk made with Hershey’s syrup and skim milk.
Those expressions quickly changed when they tested the same concoction, only this time mixed with whole milk and then cream.
“Oh my gosh, this is amazing” and “it tastes like a milkshake” were some of the responses.
The simple taste test was to show students how fat content can significantly alter the flavor of a beverage or food
Katie Sudler, community education director for FONA International, visited Scullen Middle School in Naperville on Thursday to introduce students to food-science careers.
The Geneva-based company designs and produces flavors for many of the largest food and beverage companies in the world and hires people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Sudler said that with the world population projected to grow by another 2.5 billion by 2050, more people will be needed in food science to study how to feed them all.
Yet it remains a fairly unknown field, Sudler said.
“Most people fall into it. They get a degree in chemistry and get hooked after completing an internship,” she said.
Koulos learned about FONA last year during a teacher’s institute day. The Indian Prairie School District 204 teacher said she was excited to introduce eighth-graders into a different side of family and consumer science.
“People are always thinking about cooking. This is so much more,” she said.
Just like scientists, Scullen eighth-graders used their senses of taste, smell, touch and sight to judge the samples of chocolate milk.
Although students added the same amount of chocolate syrup to all three dairy products, students noticed how the fat content even affected color. The higher the fat content, the lighter in color the chocolate appeared.
Students also sampled the instant consumption product TruMoo, Dean Foods’ version of chocolate milk, to compare it with their mixtures.
While the fat-free TruMoo had the same fat content of the skim milk, students said the TruMoo flavor was more chocolaty.
Sudler explained how the syrup doesn’t bind well and eventually separates from the milk. But with TruMoo, carrageenan is added to keep the chocolate stable within the liquid.
In addition, cocoa is very acidic, and it is processed with alkali to remove the bitterness, Sudler said.
“There is a lot of science behind TruMoo,” she said.
Sudler said not all products crafted with food science end up working with consumers, and perception plays heavily into their reactions.
“In the early 2000s, color was all the rage,” she said.
Heinz hopped on the bandwagon, creating ketchup in a variety of colors, including blue, purple and green.
That didn’t work, and neither did attempts to remove caramel color from cola products.
“Food has to look like it should,” she said.