This story was written by Blaine Friedlander and originally published in the Cornell Chronicle. It was NOT written by The Ithaca Voice. 

Cornell’s Jack’d Jerky – a nutritious vegan snack that offers a refreshing respite from salt-laden meat jerky – won the 2017 Institute of Food Technologists’ Student Association & Mars Product Development competition June 27 in Las Vegas.

It’s the seventh time since the contest started in 1991 that Cornell has won.

“When the judges tasted the jerky, they jotted notes and maintained poker faces. As soon as they asked questions and offered comments, it was obvious they liked the product as much – if not more – than we did,” said team member Micah Martin, M.S. ’17. “The judges were impressed by our ability to mimic the texture of meat jerky with clean-label, simple ingredients and a unique, fresh flavor.”

Jack’d Jerky appeals to health-conscious millennials. It’s made from shredded jackfruit, a fruit popular in Asia, and a hydrated pea-protein base blended with tomato and herbs. The team spreads the mixture onto baking sheets, chills it and cuts it into squares. The baked final product reproduces the texture and appearance of meat, according to Jessica Kwong ’18, a co-captain of the team.

Martin knew that the Cornell team had excelled in the oral and written presentations. “The tasting part of the contest is always the great equalizer,” he said. “Once it was apparent that they liked the flavor, texture and appearance of the jerky, I was feeling very optimistic.”

Kwong and co-captain Brandon Yep ’17 both agreed that winning was surreal. Said Yep: “There was a group hug afterwards. For some of us who graduated, this was the last time we would see the team together and it was a bittersweet moment.”

Members of the winning Jack’d Jerky team: Kaitlin Steinleitner, front left, Halle Bershad, Alexa Capano. Standing in front of letters, Isabel Alster, Brandon Yep. Will Borchert, back row left, Anna Xu, Micah Martin and Jessica Kwong. Not pictured: Molly Mandel.

One key ingredient of Jack’d Jerky was teamwork. “I had been on two previous product development teams before this, but had never made it to the finals. As a senior – and now recent graduate – the third time was the charm,” said Alexa Capano ‘17. “Teamwork is necessary for success, as it mimics the environment of the food industry, which makes the competition a practical and unique experience. Getting up early on weekends for formulation sessions and spending countless hours creating an entire product from concept to market is difficult, but the hard work [and] determination made our win quite satisfying.”

Other team members were Isabel Alster ’18, Halle Bershad ’17, Will Borchert ’17, Molly Mandel ’17, Kaitlin Steinleitner ’19 and Anna Xu ’17

Over the years, the Cornell product development team has won IFT titles for Pizza Pop-Ups, a toaster-ready pizza (1995); Stir-Ins, a pencil-shaped cookie with flavoring on the tip for dunking in coffee (1996); Wrapidos, a cone-shaped, tortilla-style wrap (1998); Dough TEMPtations (2012); Squashetti (2013); and Popples (2014).

Other Cornell winners at the event and the titles of their presentations:

Emily Griep, Ph.D. ’18, first place in the dairy foods division, “Microbial Removal from Skim Milk Using Different Pore Size Microfiltration: Impact on Milk Quality and Shelf Life.”

Belen Vila, M.S. ’17, first place in the toxicology and safety evaluation division, “Effect of Juicing and Roasting on Cyanogenic Glycosides Content of Cherry Pits and Oil.”

Charles C. Lee, Ph.D. ’17, first place in the nutraceuticals and functional foods division, “Trihydroxyisofavone, a Major Daidzein Metabolite Found in Soybean-Fed Rat Plasma, Attenuates Monocyte-Endothelial Cell Adhesion.”

Dean Hauser ’17, second place in the undergraduate research paper competition, “Recovery of Soft Resins of Brewery Waste Using Supercritical Carbon Dioxide.”

Jason Lin, Ph. D. ’18, second place in the food packaging division, “Solution-free Preparation of Metal Chelating Active Packaging Material and the Resulting Antioxidant Efficacy.”

Doctoral candidate Yifan Yang, third place in nutrition division graduate student research paper competition, “Combination Effects of Bioactive Compounds from Fruit and Vegetables on Antiproliferative Activity in Human Breast Cancer Cells In Vitro.”

Featured image provided by Cornell Chronicle.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.