A dreary morning in Chicago — lightning and rain included — couldn't steal IFT’s thunder (apologies, it’s been a busy few days). Well, the morning's Fun Run was canceled on account of the weather, but the conference didn't slow down for anything.
Here are highlights from Monday.
Tech is the word
The morning's general session featured Mike Walsh, who discussed what the future of the food industry looks like (hint: technology-driven), asking four important questions while providing insight and proposing tasks to take back to work. These questions beg in-depth coverage later, but here they are:
1. How to engage the next generation?
2. What happens when produce is programmed like software?
3. What impact will emerging food technologies have on sustainability?
4. What impact will big data have on the big food industry?
These, however, did leave Food Dive with a question: as innovation continues, where does that leave the consumer asking for something simple — organic, natural? "We’re facing a massive paradox with food," Walsh said following the panel.
"We can't have it both ways. We have to find solutions that scale. We have to find things that not only keep people in San Francisco happy, with their farmers' markets, but also feed the planet," he added.
GMOs and you
Steve French, a panelist and managing partner at the Natural Marketing Institute said, "GMOs are a very complex topic," — one that the industry closely follows. He pointed to data on clean labeling, GMO awareness, "GMO-free" product launches, and more. One noteworthy statistic: concern about GMOs among millennials in the U.S. was 24% in 2012 — and grew to 44% in 2014.
An insider tour
Food Dive got a special tour from John Coupland, incoming president elect of IFT and food science professor at Pennsylvania State University, of IFT's Transformation Lab, an exhibit that examines what happens when food goes into the body.
Upon entrance, you're put to the test (literally) in determining your mouth behavior by answering a few questions. Of the four options — cruncher, chewer, smoosher, and sucker — it turns out I’m a cruncher.
According to a handout from the lab:
Each individual’s mouth behavior category is determined by
The choice of different types of foods and textures of foods
How food is modified in certain ways in the mouth
Determining which foods are more satisfying than others
But what does this all mean for food manufacturers? "I'd like them to dwell a little bit more on how much science is going on to understand what it means to be a healthy food vs. a non-healthy food," Coupland said. "I think what's great about this is the connection between the show floor stuff and the technical programs. The way it’s laid out, as you move through here, hopefully you get some understanding of what’s going on ... product development at its best is very science-guided, which should be able to direct the way we build foods to achieve human health outcomes, and this research that's going on here I think is our best direction for doing this."
Social media and the food industry
The final speaker, Christina Tyler, manager of brand reputation at McDonald's USA, talked about transparency in showcasing McDonald's story via a campaign launched in October. McDonald's adjusted its story following media and consumer perceptions that did not fit its message.
Bird flu is the latest reason manufacturers are interested in a substitute for eggs. Dow Food Solutions highlighted its Methocel, featuring plant-based ingredients that can sub for egg or meat proteins in a number of items, including baked goods and fillings.
The session Sunday wasn't kidding about the natural color trend — companies offering natural colors were throughout the exhibit hall. Many food companies have been announcing the removal of artificial colors, including General Mills and Nestle.
Monk fruit in more than you might know
Monk Fruit Corp., touted as the world’s leading monk fruit company and making up 70% of monk fruit production globally, features two products: monk fruit extract, with Tate & Lyle as its exclusive distributor, and Monk fruit juice concentrate, which is 20 times sweeter than apple juice.
What’s most intriguing here is what more mainstream products contain monk fruit (not necessarily this company’s specifically), like certain Nestle Skinny Cow iced coffees, Starbucks doubleshot coffee and protein drinks, Chobani’s Simply 100, and more.
— David Oliver (@davidolivereats) July 13, 2015
As far as show floor trends from Monday…
Ryan Richard, senior director of industry development retail grocery at GS1 US
Jon C. Mosimann, senior buyer - supply chain at StarKist (keeping an eye on a lot of flavors)