Innovation and Taste Going Strong at 2008 IFT Expo

The heat and humidity of the Big Easy could not wilt the innovation of the annual food technology show.

By Dave Fusaro and Diane Toops

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Attendance was down to 15,000 (from 23,296 in 2007), but many members expressed great emotional attachment to New Orleans at this IFT Show.

The Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Food Expo returned to New Orleans June 29-July 2 for the first time since beating Hurricane Katrina by just a month in 2005.

Beauty from within, healthy bones and healthy hearts were the primary messages we heard at a quieter IFT Food Expo this year. Omega-3 fortification, fiber fortification and antioxidants in superfruits were at the forefront again. The conversation was about escalating prices of both ingredients and food and how it will become more difficult to innovate in a slowing economy.

In addition to the usual IFT programming surrounding the show, there were three charitable events planned to help the struggling city and its citizens. Kerry Ingredients planned to put show-going volunteers to work Saturday before the expo started in New Orleans neighborhoods that still need work rebuilding, but that event was canceled. A spokesperson said apparently not enough people were arriving in the Crescent City early enough to take part. Instead, Kerry made a monetary contribution to the organization involved: Beacon of Hope.

ABF Ingredients and its subsidiary companies – AB Enzymes, Abitec, Ohly, PGP International and Protient – held a dinner cruise on the Creole Queen riverboat. A silent auction and raffle raised $12,000 split between Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, a New Orleans home-building charity, and Cecily’s Fund, which helps educate Zambia’s children orphaned by AIDS.

The IFT association had its own program the day before and the day after the show. Volunteers worked with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana to sort, repack and deliver surplus and donated food to needy residents.

IFT officials termed the show a success, despite attendance of just over 15,000 (down from the 2007 Chicago show’s crowd of 23,296, the second biggest IFT Show ever) and 951 exhibiting companies. Chicago, which is the venue every third year, always draws heavier crowds than New Orleans, Orlando, Fla., or Anaheim, Calif., which also regularly host the show.

Technical sessions included: organic and natural certifications, food safety, essential fatty acids, newer sources of fiber, consumer research, the safety of imported foods and ingredients and functional foods (reports on all those subjects are available on the IFT web site).

The two days preceding the food expo, IFT held its International Food Nanoscience Conference. This emerging field has great potential to influence all stages of the food supply chain. Scientists and other experts discussed current research, the ethical and societal implications and examples of nanotechnology already in use.

All the right ingredients



Putting aside the association meetings, technical conferences and after-hours activities, the core of the annual event is the Food Expo, at which many of those 951 exhibiting companies introduce new products, with heavy emphasis on the ingredient side of the house.

Leavening agent Levona (now renamed Levona Opus) was introduced to the ICL Performance Products portfolio in 2006. At this year’s show, Levona Brio debuted. Although primarily a leavening agent, its replacement of sodium acid pyrophosphate with calcium pyrophosphate helps food processors reformulate products with “low sodium” and “good source of calcium” claims.

When InterHealth Nutraceuticals Inc. started coming to the IFT shows, nutraceutical ingredients were eyed with skepticism by some consumers, according to Jay Martin, director of marketing. “Now that those kinds of ingredients are showing up in Coke and Pepsi products, consumer acceptance is growing, and that only opens the door for more,” he said. InterHealth is seeing more applications of its two key products. SuperCitrimax, an extract of the fruit Garcinia cambogia, helps curb appetite and reduce caloric intake. ChromeMate, a patented form of biologically active chromium nicotinate, helps insulin metabolize fat, turn protein into muscle and convert sugar into energy. Chromium-activated insulin increases the amount of blood sugar available for energy production nearly twenty-fold.

Still flying the “Texture changes everything” banner, National Starch Food Innovation showed textural differences — from a delicate crunch to a crispy snap — in baked potato chips and crackers. The different texture profiles are the result of its starches and other ingredients, as well as research and development at its new (opened in June) Texture Center of Excellence. As for brand-new-for-the-show ingredients, National Starch debuted its first natural/organic emulsifier, Q-Naturale, suitable for sparkling and still beverages, waters and juices. It was developed with supplier Desert King from quillaja, an organic, sustainable crop. Officials say it should be more price- and supply-stable than gum Arabic.

Also opening a Texture Innovation Center — just the week before the show — was TIC Gums, near its Belcamp, Md., headquarters (more on that in our upcoming September feature on texture). At the show, TIC’s focus was on Pretested Saladizer Max, an emulsifier that can replace more expensive propylene glycol alginate in dressings, marinades and many applications without any discernible difference in mouthfeel.

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