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Creating the flavour of Unitec

  • Learning in action drink image 1

The practical experience Unitec students enjoy isn’t limited to external assignments. One interesting example was a task given to four students to devise a promotion and recruitment campaign for Unitec itself. Their winning approach brought in the skills of a leading food technology consultant.

When Bachelor of Creative Enterprise students Jess Cooke, Abhi Topiwala, Jessica Alison and Connaugh Grace were tasked with promoting Unitec to potential students, the idea they came up with was a novel one. Selling tasty, cold craft sodas via a pop-up store at summer events would be a great way to engage with people. At the same time, it was a literal demonstration of Think.Do in action, with the students not only conceiving the idea but also doing everything to make it happen. The group had the abilities and skills to remodel a retro caravan to act as the pop-up store, serve the drinks and design the branding. But, as Jess Cooke points out, “First, we had to develop an actual drink from scratch that we were going to serve at these events!”

That was going to require some other, quite different, knowledge, especially around the science of food & beverage development and production. Fortunately, Unitec’s network of influence spreads far and wide, and the right person for the job was quickly identified.

Enter the Dragon

When it comes to producing food and beverages, David Bayliss is the go-to guy for dozens of New Zealand companies. He’s a Food Technology Consultant, part of a group of similar specialists called Food Inc. “I support the food industry with scientific and management skills in all areas of product development and commercialisation,” says David. “Including regulatory compliance and food safety.” In other words, he’s one of the Dragons of the New Zealand food business, and a man who’s seriously in-the-know.

Making it uniquely Unitec

Before the group could join David in the lab, they had a little more thinking to do, and that was around flavour. Rolling out predictable options wouldn’t be very enticing and the opportunity existed to create something that was uniquely Unitec. Taking inspiration from the Marae, which is at the heart of Unitec, the team decided to use Māori herbs and plant extracts, some of which grew on campus. David then helped source them from his network of suppliers, along with the syrups and other ingredients. He also opened doors at The Food Bowl, the NZ food industry’s innovation facility in Manukau, where the blending and testing was undertaken. “It’s so good to have that access to industry experts,” says Jess. “It’s a great way to learn.

Try, try and try again

As Creative Enterprise students, Jess, Connaugh, Jessica and Abhi’s primary areas of study include design, communications and creativity. So when it came to food science and chemistry, they were heavily reliant on David’s expertise. Even so, there was a lot of work for them to do once David got them busy in the lab. “They did well, working under guidance to formulate the products,” affirms David. “Probably a hundred different options were prepared before narrowing down on the preferred samples.”

Fifteen finished sodas were evaluated by the team for taste appeal and colour, before settling on three finished flavours: Pear & Lime with Horopito, Feijoa with Kawakawa Leaf and Lemon & Ginger with Kawakawa Leaf.

Wagons roll

Other serious help for the project came from Unitec’s advertising agency, Republik. As well as setting the brief and evaluating the range of ideas that led to the pop-up soda store, the agency remained involved during the branding and design process. The end result is a freshly-restored caravan, packed with uniquely-flavoured sodas, that’s set to roll out at venues all over Auckland this summer. Jess, Abhi and many of the other students will be on hand to talk about how Think.Do really is what it’s all about at Unitec. So if you see the caravan, rock up and say Hi. Oh, and don’t miss the Pear & Lime with Horopito: it’s delicious.

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