When Harry Balzer, vice president NPD Group, discusses the latest findings of the company's National Eating Trends, audiences listen. As he pointed out in his presentation "Consumer Trends: What America Eats and Drinks," consumer behavior doesn't change dramatically, it changes slowly and manufacturers should attempt to sort out trends from fads.
"‘If I show you what's in the product, you'll change your behavior,' was the goal when the Nutrition Labeling & Education Act was passed in 1990," says Balzer. Was the goal reached? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), among adults aged 20-74 years, the prevalence of obesity increased from 15 percent (in the 1976–1980 survey) to 32.9 percent (in the 2003–2004 survey). On the positive side, obesity and overweight statistics are flattening out, as Americans attempt to get fit. In contrast, the hottest menu items in restaurants are snack wraps and fried chicken sandwiches, rather than last year's favorite -- salad.
Checking out labels has become a national obsession. Balzer says consumers consider calories (49.2 percent), total fat (46.5 percent) and sugars (41.7 percent) the most important things to monitor, and they are also concerned about trans fat.
Also on the plus side for food manufacturers, consumers give positive marks to foods containing whole grains/dietary fiber, antioxidants, omega-3s and yogurt. And some 24.5 percent of the population says it buys organic products occasionally. After a decade of decline, preparing meals at home rose from 850 in 2006 to 861 in 2007, says Balzer. More men are wearing the toque (12.6 percent) compared to 11.3 percent in 2006. Part of that can be attributed to working moms. In 1950, 33 percent of moms worked outside the home, but in 2006, a whopping 59 percent of moms were in the workforce.
Today's moms are feeding their kids nearly identical foods for breakfast as moms did two decades ago. "New moms today are asking the same question their moms asked when deciding what to feed the kids, ‘What is the easiest way to get this job done?' " says Balzer. "Often times, it's the way their mom did it." Convenience and portability reign with mom, so bacon and eggs breakfasts are being replaced with frozen waffles (up 19 percent from 20 years ago), yogurt (up 15 percent) and toaster pastries (up 12 percent). The big loser is toast, down by 20 percent.
Balzer concluded by saying Americans like to try new things … "but don't mistake this for a trend." Other findings include: It takes generations to change what we perceive tastes good; Convenience is No. 1, we always move to easier ways to prepare food; and Cost is key. "Never let food costs rise faster than incomes."
Meanwhile, out there on the show floor:
Paperboard packaging continues to put up a good fight for packaging, even outside of the dairy category. Rank Group, an investment firm from New Zealand, has acquired and combined SIG Combibloc, Evergreen Packaging and Blue Ridge Paper Products. They were all together in a large display at the show, offering packaging materials and equipment in both fresh and aseptic packaging.
Tetra Pak Inc. (www.tetrapak.com) took center stage on the sustainability front with its showcase of eco-friendly packaging. Ed Klein, the company's vice president of environmental affairs, presenting on the topic during one of the expo's Dairy Tech sessions, demonstrated how "going green" involves more than recyclability and reuse. Klein explained how eco-friendly materials must be coupled with package design to reduce weight, damage and transportation costs. He also explained how energy expenditure to produce and use the materials for packaging makes "going green" a cradle-to-cradle process to ensure effective environmental benefits.
Engineers from architectural-engineering-construction firm Stellar (www.stellar.com) took in the show to discuss with potential clients what they think will be 2008's top manufacturing trends: lean manufacturing, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and automation strategies.
Among products introduced at Worldwide Food Expo:
The Cryovac packaging division (www.cryovac.com) of Sealed Air Corp. introduced a novel package that holds meat and a marinade separately but them combines them with a little squeeze. The Marinade on Demand package keeps the two components in separate pockets of the thermoformed rollstock package. But a little pressure pops a seal on a channel that joins the two. The marinade can be added to the meat at any desired time, all the while keeping the contents sterile. While foodservice is the initial target market, Cryovac foresees retail packages down the road.
G&K Services (www.gkservices.com) promoted its ProSura line of uniforms and towels. In particular, the Biosmart fabric from Milliken Chemical is a patent-pending textile technology that binds chlorine molecules to the surface of fabric. Chlorine on the fabric will continue to kill germs long after the fabric has been washed.
Multivac (www.multivac.com) introduced the R535 line of thermoform packaging machines. The horizontal form-fill-seal machine has an enhanced hygienic design, built with a foamy clean-in-place step built into the program that cleans both the inside and outside of the machine. Successive models in this line will arrive next year.
APV Invensys (www.apv.com) introduced a stainless steel version of its V2 pump. This is a simplified, maintenance-friendly and efficient centrifugal pump featuring a four-blade, fully open, non-clog impeller. It's engineered for CIP cleaning, comes in five seal types and meets 3-A sanitary standards. Also new are the MS4 aseptic valve for dairy and beverage applications, the thin NR5 heat exchanger and a redesign of the Paraflow heat exchanger.
The GC02 is a new member of the Gyrocompact line of ovens from FMC Foodtech (www.fmcfoodtech.com). It combines some of the best attributes of linear and spiral ovens and adds a browning step. The suffix TC for tight curve has been added to the M10 freezer line. And a new application – baking pre-cooking – has been added to the Stein GCO II Gyrocompact, out just more than a year.
You've got to mount your computer operator interface somewhere – it ought to be part of a station designed for food plant use. As the name implies, Strongarm Designs (www.strongarm) dependably holds up your terminal in pedestal, wall, counterbalanced and mobile configurations, in stainless steel, NEMA 4X washdown-resistant mountings.
Graco's (www.graco.com/sanitary) 1590 and 3150 3-A Sanitary Pumps, certified by 3-A for dairy and milk applications, are designed to meet stringent sanitation requirements. These quick knock-down diaphragm pumps can be rotated 185 degrees to drain any excess sanitation chemicals used in the CIP process. The 1590 3-A sanitary pump transfers up to 90 gpm, while the 3150 3A can handle 150 gpm. Graco's high sanitation pumps are suitable for evacuating food process mixing kettles, repackaging fluids from original containers to smaller receptacles and evacuating high volumes of liquid concentrates from shipping tankers to holding vessels.
SS Harsh Environment Coalescing Filters from Parker Hannifin Corp. (www.parker.com) remove 99.99 percent of oil, water, rust and pipescale particles of 0.01 micron in size and larger from compressed air and other gases. The filters are available in ¼-1-in. line sizes with flow capacities to over 700 scfm. Constructed of 304 stainless, these filters will stand up to the harshest environments, including food and beverage. The product line comes complete with auto drains and a high-efficiency filter cartridge installed.
Speed, product consistency and versatility are key to NuTec Manufacturing's (www.nutecmfg.com) Simply Dependable 710 Forming Machine. It provides weight control and gentle product handling for a variety of products from beef to vegetables. It can form hamburger patties, meatballs, skinless sausage links and many more items. It operates with minimal wear and maintenance and is operator–friendly and easy to use. The company's full line of forming machines are suitable for production capacities that range from 40,000 to over 400,000 lbs. per week.
Available in two- and three-frequency models, the PowerPhasePro from Mettler Toledo Safeline (www.mt.com/safelineus) detects ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless steel contaminants up to 40 percent smaller than any other metal detector, the company claims. Its unique product clustering feature allows a range of products to be set up once and run through the machine without the need to change settings. Another metal detection option is PowerPhasePlus, designed for both wet and dry environments offering both one- and two-frequency metal detection for ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless steel contaminants. Safeline's Pipeline metal detector has a patent pending on a revolutionary design that has a uniform diameter and requires no clamp and is USDA approved for meat, poultry and dairy applications.
International Dispensing Corp. (www.idcdispensing.com) claims The Answer is the world's only certified aseptic dispensing tap, and the core technology behind Multiserve SafePak, a new flexible packaging growth category. The Answer can maintain sterility of low and medium viscous liquids for weeks of continuous dispensing in normal non-refrigerated conditions. The Answer passed a series of food safety tests conducted by IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group, a food and beverage testing laboratory. The ramifications of being able to dispense without refrigeration or preservatives are huge, the company says. Multiserve SafePaks are suitable for restaurants, foodservice operations and coffeehouses.
Worldwide Food Expo is not an equipment-only show. Several ingredient companies also exhibited:
With cardiovascular disease the leading cause of death among Americans, many consumers are looking for dietary alternatives and products containing meat substitutes. In response, Cargill (www.cargill.com) developed an innovative Chicken Breast Flavored Soy Quesadilla Filling, which contains no saturated fat, cholesterol or trans fat and is an excellent source of fiber. The quesadilla filling contains Cargill's Prosante XCL soy, an alternative for adding high-quality soy protein to replace traditional protein in beef, chicken and fish products, enabling food designers to offer a complete protein replacement while still maintaining the final product's integrity.
To meet the needs of yogurt makers who want to develop products with a creamier, more dessert-like texture yet still offer the benefits of probiotics and nutrients like calcium and protein, TIC Gums (www.ticgums.com) developed TIC Pretested Dairyblend YG FB3, a stabilizer system which allows a manufacturer to include higher amounts of soluble dietary fiber without sacrificing texture. Soluble dietary fiber has been linked to lower cholesterol and improved digestive health, and experts say most consumers need to increase the amount of fiber in their diets. Usage levels of vary from 4.0 to 6.0 percent, depending on the desired soluble dietary fiber level and thickness of the final product.
Maintaining the natural freshness of processed meats can be a challenge. Kemin Food Ingredients (www.kemin.com) developed Fortium R10 Plus dry natural extract combining the benefits of rosemary extract and green tea extract into one synergistic product. Label friendly, cost effective and with a low flavor profile, it was developed for use in processed meats, seasoning blends and other applications to help protect against color and flavor loss that can occur over time.
Vegetable Juices Inc. (www.vegetablejuices.com) introduced fire-roasted purees of just about any vegetable, as well as soft frozen purees.
There was even some software promoted at the show:
TraceExpress is an enhanced version of Ross Enterprise (www.cdcsoftware.com) Lot Trace application that features ease of use, faster access and immediate forward and backward trace to identify suspect materials and the disposition of finished goods in the event of a product recall. The system serves as the operational system-of-record, capable of recording all operations and operator activities, quality control measurements, inventory movements, recipe changes, output production yields and deviations from standard specifications by individual product and material lot. It meets the requirements for rapid and thorough traceability as outlined in numerous global regulations including the U.S. FDA's Bioterrorism Act of 2002.
Lawson Software (www.lawson.com) announced an expanded partnership with Mercatus, a Norway-based provider of information technology systems to the aquaculture and agriculture industries, to offer a new livestock solution based on Lawson's M3 Food & Beverage software offerings. The livestock solution was developed specifically around the needs of companies in the farming and production sides of the beef, pork, poultry and fish industries. Livestock operations face a number of business challenges, including significant industry consolidation, internationalization and the presence of powerful retail chains that force lower prices and require reliable and flexible delivery of large volumes of uniform-quality product. In addition, these operations are subject to a wide variety of food safety laws and regulations that can vary by jurisdiction. Lawson's industry-specific solutions can help livestock producers be much more effective, control costs and improve their operations.