Starbucks' Howard Schultz Describes 2012 as 'Golden Age of Nutrition'

Starbucks' Schultz description aptly describes 2012 IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo.

By Dave Fusaro and Diane Toops

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More than 18,000 attendees from all 50 states and nearly 80 countries attended the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo June 26-28 in Las Vegas. This year's event featured 1,066 exhibitors, an 8 percent increase from last year.

Despite the economic challenges facing the nation and the world, business operators can prevail by staying authentic and transparent and managing their companies through a "lens of humanity," according to Howard Schultz, founder and chairman, president & CEO of Starbucks Corp.

As keynote speaker on the opening day of the show, he reflected on the principles that guided the company he took public 20 years ago. After years of growth and soaring stock prices – and his departure -- Starbucks "hit a wall" in 2007, Schultz said. When he returned to head the company in 2008, he needed to re-engineer and re-energize Starbucks – but not by neglecting the company's core values and its appreciation of people. And the company recovered nicely and is stronger than ever.

Schultz talked guardedly about Starbucks' plans to introduce new products and store formats, both focusing on juices and beverages, in part the result of its November 2011 acquisition of Evolution Fresh. He mentioned the company's goal to become a branded marketer of many more grocery products. He concluded by calling this the "golden age of nutrition. It's an exciting time."

The Institute of Food Technologists itself identified these bullet points as being important themes from the meeting and expo:

  • Americans Increasingly Desire the Flavor and Health Benefits of Ethnic Foods--Americans increasingly want more ethnic foods and ingredients in their diets, many of which offer unique flavor and texture, and a variety of health benefits.
  • Aging Population Focused on Foods to Preserve Health Now, Treat Conditions Later--The rising population of aging health-conscious consumers is driving demand for food products that support good health now, as well as medicinal treatment for conditions that arise in later years.
  • The New Frontier in Food Science: Replicating the Nutrition, Texture and Taste of Meat and Eggs--Food scientists are working to replicate the nutrition, as well as the texture, taste and functionalities of meat and eggs, by utilizing plant-based products and in-vitro technologies.
  • Skipping Breakfast Can Lead to Unhealthy Habits All Day Long--Compared to breakfast-eaters, breakfast-skippers tend to weigh more and have other unhealthy habits, such as consuming too many sugary drinks or high-calorie snacks.
  • Front-of-Pack Labels Combined With In-Store Promotion Can Lead to Healthier Choices--Combining in-store promotion with nutrition labels on the front of food packaging can be a successful method for driving shoppers to make healthier choices. 
  • Child Obesity Rates Plateau: New Chance for Food Manufacturers to Make an Impact--A plateau in childhood obesity rates following a 20-year increase offers food manufacturers an opportunity to review successful strategies as well as consider new ideas for providing healthy, good-tasting options for the next generation. View the video.
  • Human Digestion Simulators Provide Insight into the Path Food Takes--Simulations of the human digestive system have proven to be useful tools for scientists studying how the body processes food from the mouth through the intestines, including how it separates the nutrients for absorption.
  • Natural Food Colorants Present Challenges in Maintaining Food Taste, Quality and Satisfaction--Food scientists and manufacturers face a number of hurdles in identifying and effectively using natural food colorants, without diminishing product quality, safety and consumer satisfaction.

When is a mismatch good? When it's a triacylglycerols mismatch, which is the key technology behind Bunge Oils' (www.bunge.com) Saturate Sparing Technology. Using proprietary non-lipid ingredients, blending and crystallization processes, the company produces all-purpose and emulsified shortenings with saturate levels reduced by more than 40 percent. Part of the UltraBlends family, the products also have zero grams trans fat per serving and provide greater levels of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated levels over traditional shortening. The company also unveiled its second mobile food truck, M.O.E. II (stands for Mobile Oil Experts).

TIC Gums (www.ticgums.com) introduced the Add-Here 3200 line of products to help reduce or eliminate the use of sugar for binding, film forming, stability, bonding and cling in granola, cereal or energy bars. Add-Here 3200 is a hydrocolloid system formulated to bind particulates commonly found in granola, cereal, and energy bars while significantly reducing the amount of sugar, honey and/or high-fructose corn syrup in the formula. At the show, granola bars made with Add-Here 3200 demonstrated how the texture and appeal of a fully sugared product can be very closely mimicked or even improved upon with hydrocolloids.

Viterra, which itself was a merger of several Canadian grain-trading co-operatives, which later acquired 21st Century Grain Processing, continues its merger into Glencore, a commodities trading firm headquartered in Switzerland. Innovation also continues, with dual texture clusters from its oat and specialty grain milling division being introduced at the IFT Expo. The customized mixtures blend any number of grains into a crunchy granola to be mixed with fruit pieces, which provide a flavor burst and chewiness. That ought to make your bar-making a little easier. The company's Dakota Growers Pasta Co. debuted VeggieServe Pasta, which squeezes a full serving (half cup) of vegetables as well as 28g of whole grains into a serving, with a number of shapes (twisted elbow, spaghetti, rotini, penne rigate) available.

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