The Institute of Food Technologists' annual meeting and food expo is a food science nerd's happy place. Food Dive challenges you to find another that better fits the bill.
Put 23,000 food science and technology professionals in one location, and you’re bound to find leaders at the forefront of discussions on innovation, policy, and trends.
A common theme is the focus on the consumer. What that consumer wants is essential for every part of this industry to work in tandem; he or she is the driving force of change.
Here are highlights from Sunday (we’ll be at the show through Tuesday, so there's more to come).
Color me intrigued
What exactly makes up a color? A panel of speakers discussed a number of potential challenges when looking for "natural" colorants.
A chief issue is finding the "right" color, and the transition to a natural source is critical in keeping up with consumer trends.
"The color represents the identity of your product," M. Monica Giusti, a panelist and associate professor and graduate studies chair at the food science and technology department at The Ohio State University, said following the presentation.
"Your eyes can usurp what your tastebuds are telling you" - Stephen Talcott #IFT15— David Oliver (@davidolivereats) July 12, 2015
But a perfect color from a natural source isn't an easy feat. A Kraft iteration of its iconic Mac & Cheese going sans-artificial did not interest the children of Stephen Talcott, presenter and professor at Texas A&M's department of nutrition and food science.
That being said, "[Kraft] made a bold stance," he told Food Dive.
A critical FSMA question
The FSMA implementation panel was greeted with standing room only, and in at least one case, sitting on the ground.
Posed in a Q&A session following brief presentations — while smaller operations may have more time to comply with FSMA, what about the larger operations that buy from smaller companies?
"It’s an interesting question, and the bottom line is that the larger operations would have to comply with the rule, so, there may be an expectation there be compliance," Samir Assar, a panelist and director of the produce safety staff in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said after the session. "Not that they would be subject to our rule, but they would be more subject to whatever the buyers need to require as part of their compliance approach."
Give me some sugar (reduction)
While the panel dug heavily into the science behind sugar reduction, Grant DuBois’ note about the future of zero-calorie beverages heading toward all-natural and non-GMO fits with the latest trends.
Another point made by the panel: It’s not just the taste of sugar, but its viscosity and other aspects that prove difficult to replicate.
Mintel research featured at its booth showed 65% of U.S. consumers find it difficult to differentiate between which sugar substitutes are natural or not.
Among the expansive exhibit hall, Food Dive will be checking out booths in between panels and interviews.
Ones that stuck out today:
There's something about reading statistics that feels concrete. Pardon the pun, but Mintel’s booth — literally clad in statistics — made this sentiment all the more true.
PHOs? What are those?
PHO-free is apparently the next big ingredient (or lack thereof) to develop and market, which makes sense considering the FDA’s recent decision. There was even a No PHO Cafe.
Food Dive stopped by the poster sessions section of the show to check out studies, and found ones related to dairy products, condiments, and coffee.
As for trends on the show floor…
Similar to the Fancy Food Show last month, the industry flooded the expo floor — and didn't leave without noticing trends.
A product developer from The Kraft Heinz Co. (asked to be anonymous)
Niche market becoming the new standard
Mark Sloneker, food scientist at Weaver Popcorn
Protein replacement (Vegetable protein replacing animal, etc.)