Tucked in a lab at the University of Manitoba is a group of students cooking up a new snack.

They’re using leftover bread crumbs from a local baker combined with yellow peas to craft a healthy snack mimicking Cheetos. 

“We like the puffy snacks so we are trying to get a snack people we know will eat,” undergraduate student Maria Arzamendi said.

“Our ultimate goal of our research would be making more sustainable food through making healthier snacks.” 

Arzamendi is from Mexico and is working in Manitoba for 12 weeks as part of the Mitacs Globalink program that brings students from 10 different countries to Canada to work on different projects. Her goal is to find the right recipe for a healthy local snack. Right now it tastes like a plain rice cake.

“We like to test which moisture can give you the crunchiness, the crispiness that’s needed for a product for us to like and be able to eat,” Arzamendi said.

Manitoba has the perfect ingredients for a thriving food sciences industry, said Filiz Koksel, assistant professor in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences.

“We’re producing lots of cereals and lots of pulses and being able to create those kinds of products and making them more available in the supermarket as a way to eat healthier and more sustainable,” she said.

Enrollment into the U of M’s Agricultural and Food Sciences department has grown from 262 students in 2009 to 686 students in 2017.

Koksel said food sciences can pave a way for healthier food options that are more sustainable.

“Food security and sustainability is a big challenge for the current generation and future generations. We’re trying to find ways to utilize some wasted foods in our food system,” she said.

“What we’re trying to do with the department is doing the research so that these healthy, nutritionally dense products will be available in Canada.”

As for the crunchy snack, the team is still working on perfecting the texture, but the hope is that it may be picked up by a company so one day it will go from the lab to your lunch.