When shopping in markets on campus and even in grocery stores around San Luis Obispo, you’ll find a variety of Cal Poly products ranging from unique chocolate bar flavors to a lineup of BBQ sauces. One of the most well known products you can find on the shelf is Cal Poly’s assortment of Jams all of which are proudly stamped “Student Made”.
The Cal Poly food sciences program, with the help of a team of students, makes these products in the Food Sciences Pilot Plant on campus. Jam production happens once a week where 15-20 students work on a small scale jam processing line. Students help set up the equipment, run the actual production of the jam, breakdown the equipment and do quality assurance on their products.
The production starts with students sorting a batch of individually quick frozen berries pulling out leaves, stems or any bad berries from the supply and adding the rest into steam jacketed kettles. The berries are then heated and gently mixed in the kettles. Once the desired temperature is reached, sugar is added to the berries followed by pectin to help thicken the mixture.
The team then takes quality measurements to ensure that the batch is within the production parameters. After the quality measurements are confirmed, the product is pumped from the steam jacketed kettles to the filler, which fills two jars at a time. Those filled jars now make their way to the steam capper which puts a lid on the jars and heats the lids to ensure a strong vacuum and good hermetic seal is made. Next, the jars go through the wash line which cools down the jars to make them safe to handle and dries them off so that a label can be applied. Finally, a label is applied to the product and it is stamped with a lot code before students box up the jars of jam on a pallet and put them into the cooler to sit overnight.
The following day, students come in to run quality assurance to make sure the product meets their specifications prior to being sold.
MNTV News Director Brady Caskey shows us how students are involved in every step of the process and how they are benefitting from gaining factory experience in a learning environment.