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University students develop sauce to reduce cooking time for meats

Published:Sunday | June 21, 2015 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon

Four university students have created a sauce that reduces the cooking time for meats and poultry and are looking to commercialise the product, which has already won them first place in a science competition.

Rapido Spices is a semi-liquid sauce made of local herbs, seasonings and the papain enzyme found in papaya, among other things, that tenderises proteins and cuts the cooking time by at least 10 minutes, Patrice Reid, chief executive of Rapido Spices Enterprise, told Sunday Business.

She said the sauce can cut the cooking time even further if left on the meat for longer than the 10 minutes, but must never be used to marinate the meat as this will make it "mushy".

The idea first came to Reid while she was searching for a speedy way to prepare her own meals after a long day at classes at Northern Caribbean University (NCU).

"I usually walk from school to home, so when I reached home, I was really tired. Then I had problems cooking my meat because it was taking too long and I had to study. So I said there must be a solution to this - but I needed something that's healthy," Reid said.

The third-year biochemistry student later joined forces with Jehnelle Johnson, Eric Stone and Whitney Watts, who are also NCU students, to produce the sauce for the Business Model Competition in order "to win some money".

"We entered and we liked the idea and we continued," she said.

They ended up in second place in the business model contest, but it encouraged the team to then enter the NCU Student Science Association Innovation Competition in March of this year.

Rapido Spices came in first in that competition and is now in talks with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) and the Jamaica Business Development Centre to commercialise the sauce.

"The SRC is going to help us with the shelf life, manufacturing and training," Reid said.

Based on its early successes, Rapido Spices Enterprise is "grabbing people's attention", said the student innovator.

"We were speaking with a manager at GraceKennedy ... . He wanted to help us bring it to a class 'A' product, but we want to sell it for ourselves, and that's why we stopped the process," Reid said. Rapido wants to be the driving force behind its own product and build its own brand, she added.

As for financing, the team has started an account on the crowd funding site Indiegogo.com, with a target raise of US$5,000.

The funds will help with procurement of a freeze dryer under plans to ramp up production of the sauce, she said.

Rapido Spices is only sold on a small scale to students, but there has been an uptick in demand from other sources, leading the group to start thinking of mass production.

"We are not selling on a large scale. If you want it, then we do it by order. Originally, we sell to working students, but nowadays, we find that everybody wants it," Reid said.

Rapido Spices not only speeds up the cooking time for meat, but is also good for the immune system and aids digestion, said the innovator. The papain enzyme in the product is key to the tenderising process, she said.

The sauce can also be used as a garnish on salads.

Reid and her team have invested about $30,000 in developing the product. Their efforts are supported by their lecturer at NCU and the team also has access to NCU's laboratory.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com