IFT 2014: Architects of the Future of Food

1,120 exhibitors at the June IFT Food Expo all play roles in the evolution of the food & beverage industry.

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Food professionals from around the world gathered in June in New Orleans for the Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) 2014 Annual Meeting and Food Expo, which also celebrated IFT’s 75th anniversary. Attracting more than 16,500 registrants from 85 countries, the expo floor featured 1,120 exhibitors. There were more than 100 educational sessions and 1,000 poster sessions that provided information on recent developments and trends in food science.

The show began with keynote speaker Doug Rauch, currently the CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Portland, Ore., and the former CEO of Trader Joe’s, Monrovia, Calif. He spent 31 years with the specialty food retailer and after retiring decided to use his management talents to work on the problems of underserved urban food deserts, food waste and feeding the world sustainably.

Rauch claimed 33-40 percent of the food produced in the world is wasted, much of it never picked from the field for a variety of reasons. He highlighted the challenges facing the current and future food supply and discussed how most of the population has a very fuzzy concept of where food comes from.

He explained that in the U.S., “hunger has a new face — obesity.” The problem in the U.S. is not an empty stomach, rather it’s a shortage of nutrients and getting a healthy, well-balanced meal. He also addressed the issue of food waste. His opinion is that the next big food revolution will be about what we are wasting and how consumers need to change attitudes about purchasing imperfect or blemished foods.

This led to discussion about IFT’s funding of a website and documentary on the future of food and feeding the growing population of the world. The food scientists group on April 16 unveiled "FutureFood 2050," a wide-ranging program to "create a broad dialogue on how science will deliver solutions needed to feed the world’s nine billion people by the year 2050." And it was further promoted at the expo.

It will be a multimedia project, backed by print stories in several of the association's journals as well as a documentary film expected in mid to late 2015. "With the premise that the science of food is an essential ingredient for feeding the world sustainably, FutureFood 2050 will highlight the people and stories leading the way toward a healthier, safer and better nourished planet," the association said in the April announcement.

At the food expo, the session “A Filmmaker’s Perspective: FutureFood 2050 Panel Discussion,” featured website author Josh Schonwald and film director Scott Hamilton Kennedy explaining how both mediums over the coming months will explore the challenges the food industry will face and how the science of food is progressing to aid in feeding and sustaining the world.

Some of the food ingredient suppliers carried the sustainability theme into their trade show booths, often including a dose of cost savings and better-for-you, nutrient-dense formulating. Many showcased their ingredients in New Orleans-inspired prototypes. There seemed to be five recurring themes in the trade show: calorie reduction, fiber fortification, gluten elimination, natural colors and protein fortification.

Some suppliers experimented with emerging alternative protein sources. In the technical session titled “Real pioneers: experience with insect ingredients, processing, products and marketing,” speakers discussed the virtues of adding insects to the Western diet. Pat Crowley, founder of Chapul Inc., Salt Lake City, which makes the Chapul Cricket Bar, said insects are extremely nutritious and, in some cases, more nutritious than animal protein sources.

The speakers all agreed that the greatest obstacle will be getting consumers to accept insects as a source of protein. After all, based on the negative opinion many consumers have with carmine, a red color obtained from cochineal, insect protein does not likely complement the clean-label trend, which was a theme all over the show.

Market research firm Mintel, Chicago, offered daily presentations on “What’s next for clean label,” noting that the “no additives” package claim continues to gain global popularity as does formulating for label simplicity. Non-genetically modified ingredients are an important part of clean label.

Some will lament this is the last IFT show in New Orleans, at least for the foreseeable future. Next year's IFT show will be back in the association's hometown Chicago next July 11-14.

IFT was a coming-out party for Ardent Mills. The country's largest flour milling company, a joint venture between ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling (which itself was a joint venture between Cargill and CHS), was just given final Justice Dept. approval to exist three weeks before the show. The company drove into the show its semitrailer Mobile Innovation Center (MIC) filled with a range of on-trend, New Orleans-inspired applications. The menu included a fried alligator po’boy, which used bread made with the company’s stabilized bran and germ flour from white wheat.

Ingredion Inc. showcased its ingredients in prototypes addressing the top trends driving food industry growth, according to the company’s internal research. They are authenticity, back to basics, better-for-you snacking, global variety and holistic health. The company sampled a spinach gorgonzola Greek yogurt dip made with its clean-label functional native instant starch. The yogurt used in the dip was Greek-style, meaning it was high protein but not made using an authentic straining process. This is possible through the use of skim milk, milk protein concentrate and a special emulsifying texturant system.

Many suppliers showcased products enhanced with dairy proteins, either solo or in combination with plant proteins. For example, Celanese's Food Ingredients Division sampled a no-sugar-added breakfast shake made with low-fat cows milk, nonfat dry milk, rice milk and oat milk and sweetened with its proprietary blend of acesulfame potassium, sucralose and natural flavors – the last a part of its Qorus sweetening system. The result is a beverage with fewer calories, lower total carbohydrates and no added sugars, as compared to similar sugar-sweetened meal replacements.

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