University of Minnesota Students Win Checkoff’s New Product Competition

  • 4 min read June 18, 2024

Scott Wallin


ROSEMONT, Ill. – A University of Minnesota team took first place in the Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) New Product Competition with a cheese spread that meets the contest’s guidelines of creating innovative dairy-based products for consumers’ health and wellness needs.

The students created Yay-tost, a creamy Norwegian-style, brown, whey-based cheese spread that offers health-conscious consumers a good source of protein, contains 3 grams of dietary fiber and is an excellent source of calcium. The product comes in an aluminum squeeze tube that is recyclable.

Students Anandu Chandra Khanashyam, Abrielle Schnurr, Nghi Huynh and Suchismita Roy are studying food science and earned the first-place prize of $10,000. They were recognized during this week’s American Dairy Science Association’s annual meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Schnurr, who serves as team captain, said she and her classmates began working on this concept last September and went through “a lot of trials and a lot of errors.” But they ultimately perfected the final product that received great reviews from faculty members and other students.

“There’s kind of a niche that's missing for a high-protein spread,” Schnurr said. “The consistency of Yay-tost is somewhere between cream cheese and peanut butter, but this has almost no fat. It goes great with apples, and you can also spread it on toasted bread, crackers or waffles or even use it on a charcuterie board. It offers a lot of delicious versatility.”

The dairy checkoff has hosted this event since 2012 to inspire the next generation of food scientists and innovators and give students an opportunity to experience a real-life scenario of working for a food company. The contest has a different theme each year that is based on consumer trends and aligns with checkoff-led strategies to reach younger audiences. Food that delivers health and wellness benefits is a quality that Gen Z consumers are seeking.

“One of this competition’s primary objectives is to present the industry with not only innovative ideas and concepts but also tangible products they can taste,” said Emil Nashed, executive vice president of research and development for DMI. “It serves as a platform to showcase the next generation of talent to industry leaders, providing students with valuable feedback from stakeholders. Additionally, it supports checkoff efforts to cultivate the next-generation workforce, ensuring their engagement with the dairy industry.”

A team from Oregon State University took second place with Yo-Go on Nitro, a lactose-free yogurt drink, and students from Washington State University placed third with Mooberries, an all-natural dairy and blueberry-based rollup snack.

Dr. Peggy Ponce, who is director of product innovation for Agropur, served as a competition judge and was encouraged by the creativity and innovation she saw from the 19 teams that entered. She applauded the Minnesota students for using co-products but said their presentation to the judges set them apart.

“Their product was very delicious and totally new for the U.S. market, and they made excellent use of co-products, recognizing the valuable nutritional and functional properties they offer,” Ponce said. “But the confidence and excitement this team showed when presenting to the judges set them apart. They were amazing.”

Virginia dairy farmer Joanna Shipp, chair of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, was another contest judge and said seeing all of the students’ innovation left a positive impression on her.

“It’s amazing that when you put out a competition challenge to students, they all come back with something different, yet they all offer the same solution,” Shipp said. “The entries all were top-notch, and this competition continues to be a great way to get students involved with dairy. I can see many of them becoming the next great innovators in our industry.”

To learn more about the dairy checkoff, visit


About Dairy Management Inc.

Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI) is funded by America’s more than 26,000 dairy farmers, as well as dairy importers. Created to help increase sales and demand for dairy products, DMI and its related organizations work to increase demand for dairy through research, education and innovation, and to maintain confidence in dairy foods, farms and businesses. DMI manages National Dairy Council and the American Dairy Association and founded the U.S. Dairy Export Council and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.