Meet Elizabeth Fenner, a food development scientist and Woman You Should Know who would rightfully have Willy Wonka shaking in his purple tux. In 2011, while a Food Science graduate student at the University of Missouri, Elizabeth created “flavor release” ice cream. The fantasy she turned into reality starts as one flavor and magically becomes a completely different flavor in your mouth all before you have time to swallow.

Much like Mr. Wonka’s famed, experimental “three course meal gum” (tomato soup, roast beef and, as the bratty Violet Beauregarde painfully discovers, blueberry pie), Elizabeth’s Master’s thesis topic involved the encapsulation of flavors in food. But her work specifically focused on ice cream and how to use micro-encapsulation techniques to develop REAL, new products for this billion dollar industry.

After three years of research and development, her successful result was a tasty ice cream that delivered two distinct and separate flavors in one spoonful… first vanilla and then cherry. Mmmmmm!

Ice Cream on spoon

According to an article from the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, “Micro-encapsulation of food is a relatively new science that is less than two decades old.  It involves covering flavor compounds in a wax, gelatin, protein or food-grade polymer casing just millionths of a millimeter in size.”

In discussing her work with her University’s newspaper in 2011, Elizabeth explained, “The process is commonly used in long-lasting chewing gum and microwave cooking, but it really hasn’t been tried successfully in anything cold or food that is swallowed quickly.” She added, “We did face some challenges. Obviously, ice cream doesn’t stay in your mouth as long as gum, so we had to rely on the heat of the mouth to break down the coating in order to release the second flavor.”

Although Elizabeth has not yet brought her “flavor release” ice cream to market, her success in developing the newfangled frozen treat helped her land a dream job post-grad school. Since April 2012, she has been the Product Development Specialist at Yogurtland, a national pump-your-own frozen yogurt franchise chain that leads the industry with proprietary flavors that push the boundaries of taste. Sounds like a perfect pairing.

As luck would have it, there is a Yogurtland opening just blocks from the WYSK world headquarters, so we will have the chance to taste the fruits (and flavors) of Elizabeth’s labor very soon.