Ecotrophelia: what is it and useful tips

Suppose you are a food science student studying in Europe and have never heard about Ecotrophelia. In that case, you are missing an excellent opportunity to meet relevant people from the food industry and a great moment of confrontation with your peers and future colleagues.

Last week, my students and I went to the Ecotrophelia UK final. My students have been shortlisted with their Pea-zza product idea, a gluten-free, fully customisable pizza dough fortified with pea proteins. 

This year the Ecotrophelia UK was held in the Tesco HQ quarters in Welwyn Gardens, and let me tell you, that is a fantastic venue. When you enter the Tesco Heart building, you can see people tasting food formulations, a great food development facility with open space offices right in the middle of the many kitchen positions. Seeing all of this was like a dream.

But, before I go off-topic, let me tell you more about Ecotrophelia if you don’t know much about it:

Ecotrophelia UK is the national ‘Dragon den’ type of competition that involves developing and proposing an eco-innovative food product that could be financially viable. In the UK, the competition is organised by the Institute of Food Science & Technology and Campden BRI. Several teams from across UK Universities (but this is a process that happens all over Europe) are shortlisted. The winning team then represents the UK at the European final.

All the 5 shortlisted teams alongside the dragons from this year’s Ecotrophelia UK with the winners from the University of Nottingham.

The competition is open to university students and other scientific/technical higher education establishments. Teams should have a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 people. The age limit is 35.

These are the technicalities that you can read on the Ecotrophelia UK website, but let me tell you what you need to know if you want to participate and what you will need to prepare:

  • Come up with a compelling product idea and find team members that will develop the formulation, write the relevant documents, and present eventually to a jury of ‘dragons.’
  • Look for team members with different background (Food Science, Nutrition, Finance, Economics, Communication, Design etc..)
  • Write a 20 pages dossier with all the relevant information about your product.
  • Hopefully, you will get shortlisted for the finals, and in order to participate, you will have to produce your product prototype alongside its packaging

Here are the things you should pay into consideration if you are shortlisted:

  • Pay attention to branding. How you present your product in your stand is vital.
  • Remember to print relevant posters, prepare social media accounts, and set your stall as professionally as if participating in a professional food fair. Remember, you are ‘selling’ your product to the jury.
  • The marketing strategy should be solid, so make sure that you explore the topic extensively.
  • Don’t leave any gap aside. You are developing an eco-innovative product, so you must show the jury that you have a genuinely innovative product that would be well-positioned in the market.
  • Study your ingredients and make sure you can give your jury an explanation regarding how you would source them if you set up your company
  • Packaging and its sustainability are key
  • Practice practice, don’t be sloppy in your presentation and study how to effectively speak in public (once again, you are selling a product, you should be enthusiastic about it)
  • Plan for any contingency. I would suggest considering any possible thing that could go wrong and planning ahead for any scenario (hopefully, you won’t need to)

Here are the things you shouldn’t forget to do:

  • Make friends
  • Talk to the jury after deliberation and find out about their background, network and connect with them
  • Talk to the other team members; they will be future colleagues
  • Try all of the products, give and ask for genuine feedback
  • Have fun!

So, now that I have shared with you some lessons from my Ecotrophelia experience, you have no more excuses. Start working on your product and team building now!

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