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22 Volume
1-2 Number
2009 Year
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At Cornell

Power in the Peel

Rui Hai Liu
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AppleBoost Products Inc.

When nearly 1,000 U.S. Olympic athletes and coaches settled in for the long flight to Beijing to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, each of them was provided with a supply of a new type of “functional food” called AppleBoost™ energy snack tubes. What the Olympians found inside those portable 32-gram tubes was an organic applesauce fortified with the most nutritious part of an apple—the peel. But instead of raw apple peel, AppleBoost snacks are fortified with dried apple peel powder (DAPP™) that adds fiber, increases antioxidants, and enhances anti-inflammatory properties; the latter is an especially important ingredient for athletes. What the Olympians could not have known was that those DAPP-enhanced AppleBoost snack tubes had their origin in Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, where Rui Hai Liu led the research team that developed the patented process of drying and “powderizing” apple peels without losing their intrinsic nutritional value.

The Perfect Snack

What began in Liu’s laboratory as a journey to extract maximum medicinal value out of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has ultimately led to the first product of its kind: a low-calorie, high-fiber, highly nutritious apple-based energy snack that athletes enjoy, registered dietitians recommend, and moms love for their children and themselves.

Liu has been on a quest in recent years to show that nature has provided some of the best possible preventive medicines in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. He is convinced that if his research team can find new ways to infuse the high-antioxidant properties of apple skin into a wider variety of foods—yogurt, oatmeal, rice cakes, and applesauce, to name a few—he can help people measurably reduce their risk of illness and chronic disease simply by making more informed food choices.

Intrigued and Excited

Liu developed his patented process for drying and milling apple peels in 2003. The first company that held the license to Liu’s patent failed to run with it, opening the door for Dave Copeland, a product developer in upstate New York who says he is constantly searching for greater efficiencies in the food supply. Intrigued and excited by Liu’s research, Copeland spent many sleepless nights imagining the possibilities. That, in turn, led Copeland on many five-hour drives to Ithaca to see Liu at Cornell. By 2006 Liu decided that if anyone could commercialize the application of dried apple peel powder, it would be Copeland, with his long track record of bringing innovative foods to market.

Copeland decided to market dried apple peel powder capsules over the internet, and that’s when the real work began. He auditioned several companies that were able to process a limited supply of the dried apple peel powder, which was a good start. But in order to grow the business, he had to find a large, ongoing supply of organic apple peel, as well as a manufacturer that could dry and mill it at a reasonable cost. It was no easy task.

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