2007 IFT Annual Meeting and Expo Held in Chicago

The Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and food expo in Chicago, held July 29-31, was definitely one of the better ones.

By David Feder, R.D.

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"It's pretty clear the industry is moving to incorporate more natural fibers within their formulas," noted Darren Schubert, vice president of Grain Millers Inc. (www.grainmillers.com), Eugene, Ore. "This is because the industry is beginning to realize more of the potential of food ingredients and their relation to long-term health. Today's R&D folks are focusing more on this and processing with more natural or organic, chemical-free ingredients."

Schubert also noted the rising interest in oat fiber and oat bran: "Not just because of its high content of insoluble fiber and beta glucans, but the other key health benefits." He says, explaining the lower cost ratio of our natural fibers to similar fiber ingredients in functionality along with the consumer familiarity and ready acceptance of oat products, allows developers many options when incorporating fibers.

Another fiber highlight of the show was sweetener giant Tate and Lyle's launch of its new Promitor resistant starch, a brand of soluble corn fiber. It's a prebiotic fiber that the company reports is well-tolerated, with excellent process and acid stability and dissolves clear in applications. According to the folks at Tate, Promitor is extremely easy to formulate with and can be used to replace traditional sweeteners for a nutritive cost of only 2kcal/g, thus reducing calories while maintaining the texture and body imparted from nutritive sweeteners.

ADM created a truly unique format to provide a platform for a number of its trendy fibers, and its other grain-derived oils, isolates and other ingredients. Of the dozens of foods and beverages presented at its humongous booth, I found the little cup of honey and cinnamon ready-to-eat cereal proved a picture worth a thousand words.

The tasty and crunchy "o"s included ADM's Fibersol-2 resistant maltodextrin starch, Clintose maltodextrin, Nu-Sun mid-oleic sunflower oil, Prof-Fam 825 soy protein isolate and Yelkin TS Lecithin, all in a base of pinto bean powder fortified with tapioca starch and sweetened with the company's Sweet `N' Neat honey powder. I've advocated the use of bean powders in such cereals for years and I have to tell you, it works on all levels -- health, texture and flavor most of all.

Oil and grain certainly were not all of this year's IFT trends. Nutraceuticals remain red hot with red fruits. Ocean Spray Ingredient Technologies, Middleboro, Mass., featured its BerryFusions line of fruit pieces designed with higher processing tolerance capacities to increase manufacturers' ability to include these high-antioxidant fruits in formulations. The company also presented its SDC sweetened dried cranberry line that is lower in sugar while higher in fiber.

Decas Botanical Synergies, Carver, Mass., which only recently released its high-antioxidant OmegaCran oil and NutriCran and PaCran antioxidant cranberry powders brought its BerryOrganics whole berry powders to the show. The fully organic line includes not just cranberry but blackberry, bilberry and raspberry as well.

By the way, keep an eye on all things bilberry -- more and more products using the blueberry-like fruit are appearing at these expos. "This type of berry is seeing increased interest because of its benefits to eye health, specifically age-related macular degeneration, and cardiovascular health," says Winston A. Boyd, Ph.D., "chief science guy" for Food Ingredient Solutions LLC (www.foodcolor.com), Teterboro, N.J.

"By the way," Boyd adds, "it's hoped such increased interest in this native berry will lead to growth opportunities for regional and even sustainable farmers here in the U.S. Berries like this tend to do a little better in the climates we have in locales like Maine and Northern Michigan and Minnesota, leading to local agricultural prospects for these crops which have a high market value."

Ingredients mean nothing without the food they go into, and Innova was on hand again to impress with its comprehensive gathering of just-out food items that ride the crest of the trends. The Netherlands-based group had some interesting trend predictions that included a prediction of increased inclusion of African flavors and ingredients. I think this might be truer for Europe, but there's no arguing with the success of South Africa's rooibos over here, so it's worth keeping a watch on.

Innova also noted the return to "comfort" flavors. Lu Ann Williams, Innova's senior analyst, noted a trend toward "nostalgic, retro and authentic" products and flavors with a "longing for more traditional and simpler items on the horizon."

(Wellness Foods magazine will report more extensively on Innova's findings in our December, 2007 All Trends issue.)

Geneva, Ill.-based FONA International reminded us that Asian flavors are still wildly popular too, with its Lychee-Pear flavored tea and Melon-Shiso chew. But the company also fell in line with Innova's predicted comfort crave, presenting both maple crème brulee and raspberry liqueur flavored chocolate confections, as well as a key lime pie soy crisp bar. Few companies understand the comfort trend better than Kraft Foods Inc., and the company's Kraft Ingredients division (Memphis), proved it with its samples featuring Natural Bacon, Natural Sautéed Garlic, Golden Toasted Butter, Fire Roasted and Organic Grill flavors.

Next year, IFT will head back to the Big Easy. It will be something of a show of solidarity for that 2005 host city, but the play is the thing, so expect an amazing show as we get the opportunity to see which trends featured this year and in previous years were able to take root in the processing of foods and beverages for better health and flavor.

Final note

There's another aspect of this year's IFT show that deserves mention: After more than 35 years with the institute, Neil Mermelstein, executive editor of IFT's Food Technology magazine is retiring at the end of the year, in spite of the fact that he still looks like a 40-something. Neil, you are a gentleman and a scholar and I wish you nothing less than the very best.

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