Another near-record crowd -- more than 23,000 people – attended or at least registered for the Institute of Food Technologists' IFT 2015 Annual Meeting & Food Expo, held July 11-14 in Chicago's McCormick Place.
Attendees came from 84 countries to attend the mostly ingredients-oriented show (although processing equipment suppliers are a significant presence).
A number of trends played out at the show. While "natural" and "organic" starred at previous food expos, the trend toward a broader cleaning up of labels was apparent in many of the exhibits. And the end result of cleaner labels may be another topic at the show: a better reputation for food science and "Big Food."
Ironically running somewhat counter to those thoughts, "Futurist" Mike Walsh, the keynote speaker, said the most successful food producers and manufacturers in the next decade will be the ones who harness the rapid advances in science and technology to meet the demands of the first fully digital generation as they become adults.
"The most disruptive group of future food consumers, I believe, are people who are currently celebrating their eighth birthday." Walsh said. "If you can understand how an eight-year-old thinks, you’re a long way toward understanding a transformative change in consumer behavior.”
Walsh singled out that age group because they were born in 2007—the same year the iPhone was introduced. They are the first generation to be connected from birth, he noted, so they are growing up with a much different outlook on shopping, cooking and eating than other generations. They will expect products that are customized, readily available and look good enough to be photographed and shared on social media.
China and Taiwan have made great advances in food safety, according to a panel discussion that included representatives of the China Food and Drug Administration, Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology and International Life Sciences Institute in Taiwan.
This year's Food Expo Innovation Awards went to:
- Aseptia Technologies for its AseptiWave Modular Advanced Thermal Processing System, which uses microwave-assisted thermal processing to deliver product quality for aseptically packaged foods and beverages.
- Corbion for Ultra Fresh Premium Advantage Enzyme Blend, which extends the shelf life, freshness, taste and flavor of bread while enabling the reduction of some ingredients, such as added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and yeast.
- Ecolab for its DrySan Duo Two-Step, No-Rinse Cleaner & Sanitizer. Designed for dry and low-moisture processing environments, the product reduces cleaning time by eliminating the use of rinse water between cleaning and sanitizing.
- Parabel for Lentein plant protein, which is derived from water lentils. The highly digestible protein has an amino acid profile comparable to whey protein and is claimed to be higher in essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids than any other plant protein. It contains 65-70 percent protein, omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids and antioxidants.
More than 1,225 companies were represented in some 2,600 booths. We couldn't get around to all of them, but here are highlights from the three dozen or so that we did visit:
Grain Millers highlighted its conventional organic, non-genetically modified oats, corn, wheat barley, rye, triticale and flax seeds. The company manufactures a full range of grains in the form of whole and cut grains, flakes, flours, meals, brans, fibers and blends. It has seven processing plants in North America and international offices in Mexico and China. It also sells a variety of specialized ingredients.
Loders Croklaan continued to highlight its replacements for partially hydrogenated oils, which are due to be phased out by mid-2018. The newest solution is a trans fat-free formulation of its widely used Durkex 500 product, Durkex 500 NT.
Real egg ingredients that afford functionality were on view at the American Egg Board. The egg can emulsify, bind, stabilize, aerate and coagulate, plus more than 20 other functions. Egg ingredients can also be listed as "eggs" on packaging labels. Samples of product concepts made with eggs demonstrated their great taste, versatility and nutritional aspects.
There were two halves to the Sensient booth. The ingredients unit showed a wide variety of new tastes, from new alcohol flavors (red wine reduction, brandy flavor, IPA and stout beer types and Kentucky bourbon and margarita types) to chili pepper varietals from India to Umami Natural, a clean-label blend of natural ingredients "designed to bring harmony and balance to savory food products." The colors side of the house continued its tip toward natural colors with Pure-S natural colors, which promise vibrant colors from plant-based, natural color sources without flavor off-notes.
TIC Gums' ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage texture and stabilization solutions focused on low pH and high-protein applications. Health and wellness trends penetrate the RTD beverage category, but these drinks must have textural attributes and a clean label, which contributes to formulation complexity. Ticaloid Pro 571 SET, incorporated in a cinnamon oat beverage at the show, provided the stability needed in such high-protein beverages without being too thick. Developers seeking a clean label, non-GMO or organic option can choose Ticaloid Pro 148 OG, which suspends high-protein systems, enhances mouth coating and creates a more indulgent beverage. Dairyblend Acidified Beverage 120 provides a uniform color while reducing the awareness of particulates. This cost-effective system was demonstrated with samples of a raspberry yogurt beverage throughout the show. For clean label or non-GMO formulations, TIC Pretested Apple Pectin AM 800 impacts mouth coating, enhances slipperiness and reduces the awareness of particulates.