Audience members taste one of the flavors at the UMass Amherst Food Science-Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery Ice Cream Product Development Competition
University News

Luscious and Innovative, All Four Craft Flavors in UMass Amherst’s 10th Annual Ice Cream Competition Will Be Produced by Herrell’s

Secret ingredient of winning flavor: miso

For the second consecutive year, the premium craft ice cream flavors created in the annual UMass Amherst Food Science-Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery Ice Cream Product Development Competition were each so luscious and innovative that Herrell’s vows to produce and sell all four of them at its popular Northampton store.

A two-ounce cup of Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake ice cream
Audience members tasted two-ounce cups of the ice cream flavors, including Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake, which was announced as the audience’s favorite flavor

But true to the competition, the three-member panel of judges from Herrell’s, led by Judy Herrell, president and CEO, tallied a score sheet based on the ice cream’s texture, overrun (amount of air in the ice cream), sustainability, smell and taste. 

Coming out on top was Brown Butter Miso Caramel, painstakingly created with made-from-scratch caramel and brown bits of cooked butter, cutting the buttery fat with nonfat dried milk and punctuating the flavor with hand cut chunks of dark chocolate.

“This one had the best balance,” Herrell said after the winner was announced Tuesday afternoon in Furcolo Hall, where a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 students, professors, family members and ice cream aficionados gathered to watch the student groups’ presentations and sample two-ounce servings of their ice cream, handed out in compostable containers. “It’s also probably the hardest to make.”

What made it so special? “It was the combination of flavor and olfactory,” Herrell said. “You could smell the brown butter when it was frozen. Then, when you tasted the brown butter, it really pushed it over the edge.”

The winning group was food science majors from Massachusetts: Victoria Cercone of Concord, Adam Forbes of Arlington and Ethan Walton of Holden. “We wanted something not too farfetched, but exciting and memorable,” Walton said. “We think we struck a good balance between innovation and flavor, a bolder version of a familiar [salted caramel] flavor.”

Charmaine Koo, instructor of the food processing lab who organized the competition, was impressed with all the flavors. They were all challengingly out-of-the-box from the start. Earlier in the semester she specifically commented on the winning flavor, “The idea of combining miso and caramel – that’s not mainstream.”

The audience members also had a chance to vote for their favorite, and the People’s Choice Award went to Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake, which interestingly came in fourth in the expert judges’ tally. (“That sometimes happens,” Herrell noted.) The crowd favorite flavor was dreamed up by Ezra Leite, of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey; Sophie MacRae, of Columbia, South Carolina; and Emily Zhang, of Seattle,Washington.

The flavor’s dark cherry swirl was a big hit, and the cream cheese – a challenge to incorporate into the ice cream base due to its thickness – helped create a sensation reminiscent of the “warm and comforting and nostalgic dessert that originated in the 1920s,” the group said.

The annual competition allows seniors preparing to enter the field to apply food science principles – from food processing, chemistry and microbiology to marketing analysis, shelf stability, food safety and nutrition – and learn how to scale up a product in the industry.

Coming in second place in the judges tally was Tea Time, a chai tea ice cream with a hint of rose water, salt and the inclusion of a mix of Biscoff cookie butter and Biscoff Lotus cookie crumble. The group – consisting of Mia Gozgit, of Russell, Massachusetts; Amrit Singh, of Somerville, Massachusetts; and Cristina Hernandez Vence, of Bogotá, Colombia – sought to capitalize on the flavor trends of edible flowers and cross-cultural flavors. They were looking to create “a warm and cozy feeling, like drinking tea. A tingly feeling,” Gozgit said.

Third place went to Appel Kruimel Ijsje (apple crumble ice cream), inspired by the Dutch treat Stroopwafels. A deep apple and cinnamon flavor was added to the mix by group members Yunseong Choi of Seoul, South Korea; Henry Kaplan, of Concord, New Hampshire; and Kentaro Kawata, of Union, Kentucky.

The judges’ fourth place – the audience favorite – was Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake, which also will be made by Herrell’s on a rotating basis with the other flavors throughout the year. 

“I liked the students’ concepts,” Koo said, “and the way they told their stories.”