Near-Record Crowd at 2007 IFT Expo

A near-record crowd sampled ingredients healthy and exotic.

By Diane Toops and Dave Fusaro

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With 23,296 attendees, this year's IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo was the second largest IFT show in its 67 years, surpassed only by the 1999 show (also held in Chicago) by a mere 1,000 registrants. There were 986 exhibiting companies, who outdid themselves providing delicious solutions for attendees.

Best-selling author Jason Jennings kicked off the meeting this year with an energetic keynote address on the four secrets of leadership. In a nutshell, the world's best-performing leaders:

  1. Have a cause that has nothing to do with money;
  2. Have mastered the art of letting go, which makes them better able to deal with change;
  3. Get everyone in their organization to think and act like an owner;
  4. Are stewards of workers, customers, capital and resources.

Health and wellness was the theme of the show, in fact some 40 technical sessions addressed that issue. Hot ingredients this year included omega-3 oils, fiber, vitamins, trans fat-free oils, salt substitutes and probiotics. Exotic fruits acai, goji and pomegranate were in abundance, along with a new player, lucuma, showcased by Van Drunen Farms (www.vandrunenfarms.com), Momence, Ill. Native to South America, lucuma has a pumpkin-like pulp and color with a maple-like flavor and is rich in beta carotene and niacin.

IFT is not all about ingredients. Tetra Pak displayed packaging solutions in its booth.
IFT is not all about ingredients. Tetra Pak displayed packaging solutions in its booth.

Also on the flavor front, if you never heard of buchu, baobab or bissap, those are new flavors to watch in the next few years, according to the Innova Database Taste the Trend report. Meanwhile, a scan of yogurt and dairy drinks launched between January 2005 and December 2006 found traditional flavors still dominate new product activity: fruit flavors (5,552) and dairy flavors (1,670).

Food safety was a hot topic in many technical sessions and products. To recognize the critical role suppliers play in ensuring food quality and safety, Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) sponsored a visiting grower delegation to the show. Growers from Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota listened to a food industry overview and learned more about products developed by ADM using their food crops.

"Food safety is of greater concern today than perhaps ever before, and suppliers play a critical role in keeping our food safe," says Mark Metivier, director of sales at ADM Specialty Food Ingredients. "ADM knows our suppliers and values our relationship with them. Because of our strong, vertically integrated position, we're able to unite suppliers with food manufacturers to provide consumers with consistently safe and high-quality food ingredients."

Walking the floor

It wasn't football on display at the NFL booth. Instead, attendees were treated to a belly dancer by the innovation and new product development company National Food Laboratory. The entertainment highlighted Chef Teresa Landros' Casbah-By-the-Bay spice, containing turmeric, coriander (courtesy of McCormick) and sea salts. For bone health, the Moroccan Mobiliti-Tea was green tea with vitamin D, calcium, boron, organic agave and organic honey.

"Texture changes everything" is the apparent theme this year for National Starch Food Innovation. "We believe it's the most undervalued attribute of a food," said Anthony DeLio, vice president and general manager. Marshall Fong, National's director of marketing, cited market research that indicates the use of texture descriptors -- such as thick, creamy, smooth -- is on the rise, now being called out on 12 percent of products, up from 8 percent in 2003.

To address those concerns, National Starch announced a worldwide alliance with Avebe Group. The Dutch company's potato starches will fill a gap in the National Starch portfolio. Plus, National will begin building a Texture Center of Excellence in its Bridgewater, N.J., headquarters to devote more effort and research to the subject.

With beer on tap just before quitting time, United Soybean Board's booth was popular late in the day.
With beer on tap just before quitting time, United Soybean Board's booth was popular late in the day.

Kraft Food Ingredients unveiled several flavors at the show. Pasteurized Premium Cured Cheddar Blend is a high-performance cheese blend that yields an authentic, balanced, aged cheddar profile. It blends well with sauces, soups, side dishes and entrees. Fire Roasted Flavor imparts the taste of "old-world, wood-fired oven cooking." And an Organic Grill Flavor delivers an authentic-tasting charbroiled flavor -- in an organic form.

The cranberry already ranks high in antioxidant and antiadhesion benefits, says Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group. New research suggests cranberry components offer benefits in the prevention of dental and gum diseases. With demand for this sweetened, dried fruit increasing, the company now offers a lower-sugar/high-fiber cranberry and diced and double-diced pieces.

GTC Nutrition wants to assist processors in "building a bone-healthy brand." Its NutraFlora prebiotic fiber -- recently added to the National Organic Standards Board's list of organic ingredients -- is the subject of a "get hip to hone health" marketing campaign, targeting both returning school children and adults.

Edlong Dairy Flavors unveiled three new items. CremeLong is a heavy cream replacer meant to help processors offset rising dairy costs; it has less half the fat content of heavy cream. Ed-Vantage is a line of non-diacetyl dairy flavors; they give the mouthfeel, aroma and buttery flavor that are characteristic of diacetyl-containing dairy flavors but without added diacetyl, which is coming under increasing scrutiny. Natural Savory Salt Potentiator is what the name implies: a water- and oil-dispersible, Kosher-certified flavor that boosts the perception of saltiness in low- and no-sodium products.

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