The night before the presentation, the student team was once again fiddling with its product.
The process of creating it had been long and trying. Previous iterations hadn’t quite worked out, so now, at the last moment, the students were giving it one last shot.
“I have to admit it was a little frustrating that our first prototypes were very bad,” said Stephania Roizental ’24, one of the members of the team.
What was this product that had left the team members so frustrated, so frantically trying to get right at the last hour? They were concocting their own version of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts.
Specifically, their product was a flaky, crispy pop tart stuffed with healthy blueberry jam, and its creation was part of a Babson College course called Design Thinking and Problem Solving Business Impact. The class provides students with a valuable experiential learning opportunity, allowing them to work directly with a company on brainstorming, designing, and producing new products.
“Students have the ability to create real products for a great company,” said the course’s teacher, P.J. Guinan, associate professor in the Management, as well as Operations and Information Management, divisions. “There’s nothing like the ability to work directly with a client.”
This fall, students were working with Wyman’s, a frozen fruit company known for its wild blueberries. This is the third semester that Wyman’s has participated in the Design Thinking course. Patrick Carroll ’93, Wyman’s vice president of marketing, finds the students’ insights valuable.
“We like getting fresh perspectives on our business. We find we get a little insular at times,” Carroll said. “This is a good opportunity to see what fresh, out-of-the-box thinking says.”
In the Design Thinking course, the class was divided into teams, with each creating a new product that addressed a particular challenge set forth by Wyman’s. To inform their work, the teams visited supermarkets, interviewed potential customers, conducted surveys, and examined market research.
On a Monday at the end of the semester, the class gathered to present their final products. The first team up was the group wrestling with concocting a pop tart. “I was a little concerned last night at 8, 9 o’clock when they were going on to another iteration of their product,” admitted Guinan.
The team’s pop tart quest began earlier in the semester with a challenge from Wyman’s to find innovation in shelf-stable items. “It was definitely a tough journey with a lot of pivots,” said team member Matteo Sta Maria ’25. “For much of the semester, we had no idea what product we wanted to make. After much brainstorming and talking directly with consumers, we thought a healthy, convenient, and tasty pop tart would be the perfect solution.”
“We like getting fresh perspectives on our business. We find we get a little insular at times. This is a good opportunity to see what fresh, out-of-the-box thinking says.”
Patrick Carroll ’93, Wyman’s vice president of marketing
Of course, deciding to make a pop tart is one thing, but actually creating one that is tasty and healthy is quite another. The team experimented, struggling to find the right flavor and texture, and they tried multiple flours: almond, oat, all-purpose. Though she enjoyed it, Roizental admits she didn’t expect her entrepreneurial pursuits to involve so much time in the kitchen. “I did not envision myself in the kitchen at all when coming to Babson, even though I love baking,” she said.
In the end, their efforts were worth it. “It tasted terrible at first, but after four iterations and a lot of different testing, we ended up with a product we liked,” Sta Maria said. In class, the team passed out their final, enjoyable iteration for all to sample.
Following the pop tarts presentation, other student teams followed. One was charged with coming up with a beverage that was tasty, healthy, and affordable, a tricky combination to pull off well, and they developed a blueberry iced tea.
Another team initially was tasked with creating something innovative with canned fruit, though after weeks focusing on cans, the students ultimately pivoted to focus on baby food in pouches, creating a product with blueberries and strawberries.
After each presentation, Carroll offered commentary. To the pop tart group, he discussed the price they were hoping to charge. “You will find over the course of your marketing career that the number one criteria is price,” he said. To the baby food group, he warned that working with those products isn’t easy, because moms are very particular about what they want, and what’s important to one mom may not be important to another. “There are a lot of landmines in this space,” he said. “It’s hard to thread the needle on a large group of moms. If you’re doing a baby product, it’s like fooling around with dynamite.”
Another team, charged with finding innovation in the packaging of frozen fruit, developed frozen ice cubes filled with fruit and perfect for making smoothies. While Carroll cautioned that heat can make such a product a challenge for people to take home from the supermarket—“We have people in Arizona who are going to take this in a car,” he said—he was impressed by the team’s work.
Through the course of the semester, Carroll told them, they had learned a lot about the challenges that he and Wyman’s face. In words that could probably be applied to the entire class, he said, “I think you have a great understanding of the world I live in. You traveled a few months in my shoes.”
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