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Purdue Students Win $4,500 For Vegetarian Gelatin Dessert

Purdue University

Purdue students Ryan Howard and Faye Mulvaney, both of Indianapolis, have won $4,500 for developing a healthy vegetarian gelatin dessert. The new food contains soy isoflavones, which may lower the risk for certain diseases. The new soybean-based food was developed as part of Purdue's fifth annual "Innovative Uses for Soybeans" contest. (Purdue Agricultural Communications Photo by Tom Campbell.)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- For those who prefer that their fluorescent foodstuffs be vegetarian, two Purdue University students have invented a new gelatin dessert.

Junior Ryan Howard and sophomore Faye Mulvaney, both of Indianapolis, developed "NuSoy Gel," a gelatin soy protein dessert that can replace Jell-O, that quivering dessert that is a staple at potluck suppers and family gatherings.

The students created the new product for the fifth annual "Innovative Uses for Soybeans Contest," which was sponsored by the Purdue Agronomy Department and the Indiana Soybean Board. The two received $4,500 for their effort.

Gelatin is typically made from the animal protein collagen, which is extracted from skin, bone and connective tissue of food animals. The new vegetarian dessert is made from a gel base made of water, fructose, high-gelling soy protein and carrageenan, which is made from seaweed. The students prepared cherry, orange and lemon flavors of their gelatin for the contest.

Mulvaney says she and Howard developed the product after thinking about the dietary needs of patients in hospitals. "Many sick people can only have a clear liquid diet while they are in the hospital, but the current gelatin dessert served in hospitals doesn't offer many nutrients. Our gelatin provides important nutrients," she says.

In addition to creating the product, Howard and Mulvaney also developed packaging and a marketing plan, and even created a Web site that promotes their new food (

Howard is majoring in agricultural and biological engineering, and Mulvaney is majoring in pharmacy. They were advised by Martin Okos, professor of biochemical and food process engineering. Howard and Mulvaney also won last year's contest, which called for students to create a new industrial product. For that contest they developed a soybean-based ski wax.

Bernie Tao, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, says the contest asked students to come up with new soy food products. "We wanted to emphasize the health benefits of soybean materials in foods," Tao says. "The four products developed by this year's participants all contain valuable isoflavones, which are found in soy foods, as well as protein, without any fat or cholesterol."

Some studies have suggested that isoflavones could be a part of the reason why Asian cultures, which have diets high in soy-based food products, have a lower incidence of diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and heart disease. The new gelatin dessert naturally contains isoflavones, and it is also fortified with calcium and vitamin C.

Other winning entries:

  • "Pete's Sweet Delite," a soy-based, vegetarian, fat-free dessert topping meant to replace whipped cream, won the second-place prize of $2,400. Agricultural and biological engineering majors Doug Allen of Red Oak, Iowa, and Dennis Kim of Evansville, Ind., developed the desert topping. Their adviser was Ganesan Narsimhan, professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

  • "Soy Squares," a soy protein-based, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, won third place. Food science majors Aaron Davis of Columbus, Ind., Jonathan Gray of Fayetteville, Ark., and Laura Zimmer of East Berne, N.Y., developed the cereal. Their adviser was Paul Cornillon, assistant professor of food science. The team received $1,500.
"The purpose of the contest is to give students the opportunity to use their scientific and technical education and skills to actually create potentially commercial products from soybeans and their components," Tao says. "Teaching students first-hand about how industrial products are created is an important part of their education. In this contest, the focus isn't just on the technology, but other issues, too, including economics, practical production concerns, product safety and feasibility."

Steve Ludwig, executive director of the Indiana Soybean Board who is also a farmer in Blackford County, Ind., says that finding new uses for soybeans is a high priority with soybean farmers. "The Soybean Innovation Contest at Purdue, funded by the Indiana soybean checkoff, has been a big asset to soybean farmers in finding new ways to use soybeans. Two previous winners, soybean crayons and soybean candles, are very good examples of the success of this program," Ludwig says. "This year's entries are very timely and exciting in light of the new health-claim labeling proposal for soy products that the FDA is currently considering."


Bernie Tao, 765-494-1183;;
Steve Ludwig, 800-735-0195;
Ryan Howard, 765-463-6665 (campus); 317-253-6627 (home);
Faye Mulvaney, 765-746-1267 (campus); 317-251-8784 (home);

Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Tao.99contest.

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