Four cool food products spotted at IFT
In a show hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists, you’d expect to see both interesting and compelling innovations that can have a broad impact on the food industry. From a “miracle pill” to a new use for insects, these advances show that the business of food is anything but stagnant. Below are four products, food processing techniques, and trends that make us excited for the future of food.
What if you bit into a lemon and it tasted…sweet? Or took a shot of vinegar and didn’t pucker? Dubbed the “miracle fruit,” the synsepalum dulcificum plant produces a berry that can do just that, making sour, bitter, and acidic foods taste sweet. Using this berry, the company mberry has produced a pill that, when dissolved on the tongue, changes the taste of many foods for 30 minutes. The company says that the pill is being tested for use outside the occasional flavor trip, helping chemotherapy patients bypass the metallically taste that may occur when eating during treatment.
No part of the food industry is more reliant on air freight than seafood, as suppliers are faced with a minimal delivery window after a catch is pulled from the sea. Nearly 90% of seafood consumed in the United States is brought in with airplanes, creating carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Mark Barnekow, CEO of BluWrap, described the company’s innovative seafood packaging technology, which he says can keep a shipment of Chilean salmon fresh for 60-plus days. The company creates an all-natural controlled atmosphere environment though a patented fuel cell technology system, allowing for an extended shelf life. With this, companies have the option to ship proteins by boat rather than plane, allowing them to keep costs low and avoid loss shipments due to strikes and air travel delays.
“I’ve been in the food technology industry for almost 20 years,” said Barnekow, “and this is probably the most interesting project I’ve worked on.”
Insects as food
Two panel discussions at IFT focused on reducing the cost of protein production—by consuming insects. Claiming that some insects can be a viable source of protein, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, companies have begun processing these bite-sized critters into food products, like Chapul's energy bars.
But one of the largest obstacles for the industry is consumers’ mentality toward this new food source. While some countries outside the U.S. already consider insects an appetizing snack, American companies are having a tough time selling seemingly “creepy crawlers” as food. If accepted, these alternative protein sources have the opportunity to reduce the costs associated with agricultural production, including environmental pollutants and greenhouse gases.
New uses for oats and barley
Many people are familiar with the little red heart branding Quaker Oatmeal packages, advertising the heart-healthy benefits of oats. But unfortunately, oats, as well as barley, have yet to break through their traditional roles in the American market. Food scientists at IFT highlighted some non-traditional products utilizing these ingredients in China, from pasta, to beverages and flat bread.
Because oats and barley are good sources of protein and fiber, and also have the ability to reduce cholesterol levels, presenters pushed for an adoption of these foods into more products in the American marketplace.