Vegetable sushi wins student innovation prize

The team from the University of Reading took the gold prize in this year's Ecotrophelia awards

Students from the University of Reading have won the UK leg of this year’s Ecotrophelia Awards – the pan-European competition for ecologically inspired innovative new product development (NPD) – in a contest dominated by vegetarian and vegan products. 

The team won the gold prize and £2,000 yesterday (June 7) for its Yasai Sushi – vegetarian sushi-style rolls made with locally sourced vegetables and cauliflower rice.

Yasai Sushi impressed the team of judges in a format styled after the BBC programme Dragons’ Den.

Food biosciences student Najrien Juani from the University of Reading said: “We learnt a great deal during the competition, including things like costing, marketing and packaging.

“The key to our success was working as a team, as we all had different backgrounds including food science, food technology, consumer science and nutrition.”

The silver prize

Taking the silver prize at this year’s awards and £1,000 was the Lagom Veg team from Nottingham Trent University with its vegetable spaghetti snack.

The team’s product, Lagom Veg, is made from ‘mis-shaped’ vegetables that are spiralised, dried and flavoured with chilli and lemongrass before being compacted into nests. Consumers then add boiling water to the nests to make a healthy snack.

In third place and taking home the bronze prize and £500 was the London Metropolitan team with its vegan windfall fruit jelly, made from ‘wonky fruit’ and containing no added sugar or preservatives.

Ecotrophelia judging criteria

Each of the finalists were judged in 10 areas, with a maximum score of 10 marks for each.

  • How innovative is the proposal
  • How eco-innovative is the proposal
  • Industrial feasibility
  • Market credibility
  • Nutritional characteristics
  • Food safety and conformity to European regulatory rules
  • Taste, organoleptic qualities
  • Marketing and communication plans
  • Packaging
  • General presentation 

The awards were introduced by the competition’s chief judge and Sainsbury’s head of product quality, safety and supplier performance Alec Kyriakides and presented by Patrick Carter, responsible for regulatory affairs at Marks & Spencer at Campden BRI’s annual open day.

Ecotrophelia European final

The University of Reading team will go on to compete against 19 other national teams from across Europe for the chance to win up to €6,000 at the Ecotrophelia European final, to be held at Food Matters Live show in London on November 21–22.

Last year’s European finals saw the Fran Borjan Team from Nottingham Trent University, winner of the UK leg of Ecotrophelia in 2016, take home the bronze prize with its non-dairy ice cream made with algal protein.

Campden BRI head of membership and training Bertrand Emond said: “Ecotrophelia has gone from strength to strength. Over 250 students from 12 different universities have entered since we brought the competition to the UK five years ago.

“Ecotrophelia showcases some of the brightest and best emerging food scientists and technologists in the UK. Innovation and creativity is essential for the continued success of the food industry so we hope that all the students will consider a career in the food industry when they finish their studies.”

Food Manufacture magazine editor Rick Pendrous served as one of the 11 dragons judging this year’s awards. See the full list below.

Meanwhile, view our photogallery of last year’s winners of the UK leg of Ecotrophelia here.


Meet the dragons
  • Fiona Angus – Coca-Cola Western Europe senior manager of scientific and regulatory affairs  
  • John Bracey – Unilever research and development (R&D) director, refreshment category
  • Brett Warburton – Warburtons executive director
  • Patrick Carter – Marks & Spencer head of regulatory affairs
  • Julian Cooper – Institute of Food Science & Technology scientific committee chair and board trustee
  • Tim Ingmire – PepsiCo R&D senior director of global foods innovation
  • Victoria Jones – Mondelēz International external collaboration leader of ingredient research
  • Alec Kyriakides, Sainsbury head of product quality, safety and supplier performance
  • Rick Pendrous – Food Manufacture editor
  • Richard Stride – Tesco head of product research and academy
  • Steven Walker – Campden BRI director general

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