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Impossible burgers, pizza cones, what's next?

This food incubator is helping to grow the next generation of food inovations

BRIDGETON, N.J. — A university in New Jersey that helped bring the Impossible Burger to the market is working with a new snack company to cook up a handheld hit.

Cousins Jacob and Eric Ciancaglini created a gooey mix of cheese and tomato sauce stuffed inside a cone of dough. They started making Chank's Grab-N-Go snacks after their fathers saw the concept on a trip to Italy. Betting Americans would crave the taste and convenience, they launched a food truck selling their pizza cones at events. "We had great success there and just got better events as the years went on," Jacob Ciancaglini says.

When it was time to expand, they connected with the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. "It is unbelievable how complex the food industry is," says Diane Holtaway, the center's associate director of marketing and businesses development. Rutgers guides clients through the production process, from marketing to manufacturing. Holtaway says some participants come in with a prized family recipe. Others already have a product they want to grow, like Chank's Grab-N-Go. "If they have long-term objectives and big goals, we're going to help them get there," Holtaway says.

A staff of industry veterans, including director Nolan Lewin, makes Rutgers' food incubator unique. "We know what it's like to stay awake at night and think about an idea and how to make that successful," he says. Part of the center's mission is to promote economic development in New Jersey. They often hire locally and some of their clients establish headquarters in the state.

Chank's is currently manufacturing its pizza cone at Rutgers' facility in Bridgeton, New Jersey. "They've been helping me along the way whole time. They really made a big difference," Jacob Ciancaglini says. Now the cones are selling at college football stadiums and on Amazon. Chank's Grab-N-Go is adding new flavors to their menu, with plans to place cones in more venues and hands across the country.

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