This month's Worldwide Food Expo offers a glimpse into the state of the global food and beverage industries...

This month's Worldwide Food Expo offers a glimpse into the state of the global food and beverage industries - and the U.S. dairy industry's opportunities within those industries. What a different picture we see today in technology and marketing compared with just five or 10 years ago! Companies on the show floor will exhibit innovations in milk, cheese and ice cream packaging and processing; new tests to help in food safety systems; new ingredients to further tailor products to customer demands; and dozens of other products and services that will allow us to grow in domestic and international markets.

Meanwhile, in the meeting rooms, we'll learn of new regulations in biosecurity since the events of September 11, 2001; an exciting campaign based on dairy's role in losing weight; new studies highlighting milk in foodservice and vending; and operational improvements that, again, lead to improved competitiveness in the global food and beverage marketplace.

Believe me, the IDFA staff will bring information home from the show to help chart the association's course well into 2004. Our industry continues to experience a rapid rate of change, and at IDFA we've learned that our organization must be flexible and energetic to rapidly respond and - in fact - keep ahead of changes affecting dairy foods companies.

In my 20-plus years at IDFA, I've witnessed enormous change in this industry. Our goal has always been the same: to help broaden opportunities for dairy foods manufacturers and clear the way for growth. Here are a few examples:

  • As new technologies have developed in cheesemaking and ice cream manufacture, we've worked to try to make sure government policies don't stand in the way of better efficiencies - particularly those enjoyed by dairy industries in other parts of the world.
  • When biosecurity became a new threat to our nation, we quickly developed guidelines to help dairy plant operators tighten their systems, and we've worked with the Food and Drug Administration to make sure new regulations make sense.
  • On issues like biosecurity, biotechnology, Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP), allergens and battling foodborne illness, IDFA has been a daily resource for the industry. But these issues are complex and continue to evolve, so IDFA is planning to expand its services through strategic partnerships. We hope to provide even more in the way of technical services for the industry in the year ahead.
  • This year's work to reauthorize the school lunch and breakfast programs has provided a major opportunity for IDFA to help enhance milk's position in schools. Working with producer organizations, we are promoting legislation that we hope will lead to better investment in milk offerings by schools, while also deterring threats from groups that would weaken milk's important place on the school lunch line.
  • We continue to be a strong industry voice on labeling issues - from helping companies navigate the new trans fat regulations, to fighting burdensome allergen labeling legislation, to working for better health claim opportunities for dairy foods marketers.
  • We also work with U.S. trade representatives on behalf of the U.S. dairy industry in the World Trade Organization (WTO) developments, and are major players in Codex for beneficial and rational international dairy standards.
  • We refocus our educational training programs each year to provide direction to dairy companies, and we have improved the speed and efficiency of our communications through our website - updated daily - and the newsletters and alerts sent to members.
Just as IDFA helped expand Worldwide Food Expo from its dairy show roots into a leading international event, we continue to look ahead for opportunities to serve this industry. Government policies and business strategies must evolve together if your businesses are to grow, and we at IDFA are ready to help - today, tomorrow and in the years of new opportunities to come.