New Clemson Creative Inquiry Course Brings FNPS Department Together

A new product development Creative Inquiry class is bringing together Food, Nutrition, Culinology ®, and Packaging students at Clemson University. Faculty members from each focus area in the department are spearheading this class, titled, Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Science (FNPS) Collaborative Undergraduate Research. Dr. Duncan Darby lends his packaging expertise, Dr. Aubrey Coffee leads discussions about sensory evaluation and culinary science, Dr. Marge Condrasky emphasizes the importance of developing nutritious products, and graduate student Alexa Weeks organizes activities and interviews with industry professionals. The students work on many projects and ideation activities that emphasize cross-functional collaboration. Not only are they able to use scientific knowledge gained thus far, they learn how to look at a project from many different perspectives. The skills learned in this class will better prepare the students for successful careers as industry professionals.

Most activities in the course emphasize children’s nutrition, which is the main focus of the class. The students have interviewed Dr. Marilynn Schnepf, a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The class also took a trip to a local elementary school for lunch and to talk to children about foods they like to eat. The class also took a trip to Denny’s headquarters and test kitchen in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Most recently, the students had the privilege of meeting Chef Marshall Scarborough and Darrin Weiss of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Marshall is a manager of global product development and Darrin is a commercialization manager. They walked the students through the product development process at Popeyes and explained how a project will often begin with ideation on Marshall’s side and will transition to commercialization on Darrin’s side. Darrin also talked about potential hazards, regulatory compliance, and allergens in both the Unites States and other countries that must be taken into consideration when developing products for a global brand. Both shared some of their favorite projects, trials they’ve faced, and how mistakes can sometimes turn into inspiration for new products.

Networking between students and industry professionals is invaluable, especially in the food industry where a casual introduction can lead to an interview for an internship that can turn into a full time position. “Six years ago I was sitting in the chair where you guys are sitting,” said Marshall, as he emphasized the importance of getting involved with organizations like the Research Chefs Association.

The Clemson students were very appreciative of Marshall and Darrin for taking time out of their busy schedule and look forward to visiting Popeyes headquarters this fall.

This article was written by Alexandra Weeks, a graduate student in the Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences department at Clemson University