26 July 2016

Ingredient manufacturers looking to expand to the largest potential market, namely the USA, need to be at the annual IFT exhibition. July is the month and this year the exhibition it was hosted at McCormick Place South in Chicago.

In recent years, with the advent of social media and limitless capacity to exchange ideas, consumers have made it their business to be more informed about the foods they are eating and the lifestyle benefits which result. They may not want to compromise the taste and texture of their favourite foods, but they do want to know how the products are processed and to be aware of issues affecting the food industry as a whole.  Fortunately, this growing thirst for knowledge is being matched by highly skilled nutrition researchers who are re-evaluating the nutrition policies which were previously in place. This, in turn, has been a catalyst for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to introduce new strict guidelines.  But this also presents opportunities for manufacturers.

Changes have already been made to the labelling of nutrition facts and appropriate use of the description, ‘natural’, as well as labels which itemise the amount of sugar. Many brands have also decided to label products to show if they contain ingredients made from genetically modified sources. Kraft, Mars, General Mills, Nestle USA and Campbell Soup are just some of the large conglomerates that have committed to reformulating their products without synthetic ingredients and which have pledged to label their products according to whether they contain ingredients made from genetically modified sources.  Restaurant chains Taco Bell, Panera Bread and Noodles & Co have also fallen into line. In the State of Vermont, these new labelling rules are being implemented as we write, but in the absence of a national directive, some food companies have decided to apply the changes on their own terms.

How fitting then that Chicago, the focal point of food and beverage innovation in the USA, should stage the IFT 16: ‘Where Science Feeds Innovation’ exhibition which took place between 16th – 19th July. Over 1,000 exhibitors grabbed the opportunity to showcase ingredients, technologies and equipment at this premier event and more than 23,000 food industry professionals attended from around the globe. The participants who arrived early had the opportunity of attending 11 short courses covering a broad range of topics at a hotel in downtown Chicago and, at a special ticketed evening on 16th July, twelve of IFT’s highest achieving members received awards for their exemplary contributions to the fields of food science and technology.

As well as the amazing diversity of the stands, leading scientific experts presented lectures on a range of challenging topics and a collection of industry, academic and government officials ran a series of interactive brainstorming sessions.  Meeting consumer demands for distinctive labels, learning more about sweetener solutions and how protein ingredients differ from one another were just some of the areas covered, as well as how ingredient manufacturers ensure that their products are naturally derived, gluten-free, allergen-free and free from genetically modified organisms. Two international market research firms, Innova Market Insights and Mintel, also had representatives on hand to discuss how product development can be matched to consumers’ needs.

The live ‘Cooking Up Science’ sessions on the show floor were a huge success and attendees seized the opportunity to arrange one to one sessions with ingredients experts who could answer their questions about meeting formulation needs. Exhibitors sampled such treats as Chicago ‘Meatless’ Hot Dogs, Japanese Miso Ice Cream amongst other exciting creations and the ‘IFT 16’ Organisers facilitated an amazing opportunity to network with the assembled ‘Who’s Who’ of professionals dedicated to the science of food.

According to Mintel 51% of consumers purchase kosher food for its association with healthy eating and several KLBD certified companies booked stands. Prinova made a big impact in the exhibition hall by demonstrating their stevia product, a sweetener and sugar substitute made from the leaves of the plant species Stevia Rebaudiana.

A mouthwatering egg-free Indulgent Cheesecake was showcased by ICL Food Specialties and visitors to the stand sampled their delicious Sparkling Clear Strawberry Limeade. This innovative company, with several KLBD certified subsidiaries, also created the ‘Meatless’ hot dogs mentioned above.

TIC Gums, another KLBD certified company, could be found on Stand 3426, displaying advanced clean label and stabilization options for food and beverage manufacturers looking to meet specific labeling requirements. The gelatin-free applications included not only individual hydrocolloids and blended gum systems, but also groundbreaking products at the forefront of hydrocolloid technology, as well as functional and cost effective stabilisers.

Ingredion on Stand 1231 demonstrated their capacity to help food and beverage manufacturers capitalize on emerging trends by addressing consumers’ needs. A number of chef-inspired products could be sampled based on health orientated ingredients, including non-GM sweeteners, starches, pulse proteins and flours.

Food ingredients export to the USA is a burgeoning industry. At this amazing exhibition in Chicago, ‘IFT 16’ hosted, supported and co-sponsored an incredible opportunity for bringing together the food ingredients community to exchange innovative ideas and information.

Make a note of the dates in your diary for IFT 17.

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