Make the most of this year's IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo

From Disney parks to entertaining dining to a state-of-the-art convention center, Orlando is home to many magical places.
Photos courtesy of Orlando CVB.

Though we need food for survival, most Americans think of food as something to be enjoyed . . . something to have fun with . . . something, that is even magical. And there's no better place to experience the magic that takes place when food industry professionals come together to exchange ideas and share innovative ideas than Orlando, Fla. Experience this magic at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting + Food Expo®, June 24-28, the largest annual food science forum and exposition in the world.

From Disney parks to entertaining dining to a state-of-the-art convention center, Orlando is home to many magical places.
Photos courtesy of Orlando CVB.

Thousands of food scientists, suppliers, marketers and academics from around the globe annually attend the convention. They are attracted by the promise of encountering the driving forces behind the latest innovations and information affecting consumers, growers, processors, regulators and researchers who make the U.S. food supply the most diverse (and magical!) of any in the world. Experts from industry, government agencies and research institutions provide insight in hundreds of presentations covering topics ranging from new products to nutrition, from food safety to food quality, and from putting the sparkle in chocolate milk to the twinkle in cheese. Approximately 1,000 companies present their latest innovations for making food more fun, functional, nutritious, appealing and accessible to all. This is the magic of IFT.

From Disney parks to entertaining dining to a state-of-the-art convention center, Orlando is home to many magical places.
Photos courtesy of Orlando CVB.

Themed program focuses on issues of today and tomorrow(land)

Just as Disney's Magic Kingdom® is designed so that guests can experience the most from their magical adventure, this year's IFT has been arranged to make it easy to negotiate the scientific technical program and expo floor. The scientific technical program includes more than 100 sessions and 1,400 presentations, including division-developed symposia, oral and poster presentations, themed technical sessions, and new products and technologies programming.

Participants in the "Food Allergens" thematic program will learn the dynamics of the food science and medical implications of food allergens, and the steps necessary to communicate regulatory aspects of food allergy management. At the "Bioterrorism/Food Defense" thematic program, attendees will gain an understanding of the preventive measures that can be implemented through the farm-to-fork continuum to deter intentional contamination. In addition, through an exercise, participants will learn how the response to an intentional food contamination event will unfold.

There's also a themed program addressing "Globalization." Transportation and communication advances have contributed to globalization of the food industry. Participants in the Globalization sessions will gain a deeper appreciation for the complexities of operating in a global environment. Key experts will lead a variety of symposia, workshops and interactive exercises related to food availability and fortification, global food regulations, food safety and food customs.

And, of course, with health and wellness on everyone's mind, IFT would not be complete without a themed program dedicated to "Functional Foods." A recent Datamonitor report indicates that the current $19 billion market for such foods in the United States will grow by almost a third to $25 billion in 2009. Participants in the Functional Foods program sessions will be able to identify emerging opportunities for innovation in product development or research in food science and nutrition.

For dairy-specific topics, see sidebar below on must-see sessions.

Dairy professionals should attempt to visit Mickey's Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports park.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.

Get the most from the show floor

The Food Expo exhibit floor hours are 11:00am until 5:30pm, Sunday through Tuesday. The most crowded time will likely be between noon and 2:30 pm, which is when there are no technical sessions scheduled.

To make the expo floor manageable, IFT has created four product development, theme-specific pavilions. The pavilions showcase similar products and services in order to help attendees find the latest product information for a particular aspect of the food industry. This year, the Food Expo boasts the Organic Food Ingredients Pavilion, Healthy Food Ingredients Pavilion, Food Safety & Quality Pavilion and the International Pavilion.

The Healthy Food Ingredients Pavilion will be home to suppliers offering goods ands services that appeal to manufacturers developing products for today's health- and wellness-conscious consumers. The Food Safety & Quality Pavilion is another must, as these issues are on everyone's mind-from the farmer to the consumer, and in between the manufacturer, distributor and, of course, the government. In this pavilion, attendees will discover innovative instruments, services, processing and packaging technologies to protect and ensure food safety.

Ice cream is a favorite treat at all the attractions in Orlando.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.

The Organic Food Ingredients Pavilion is new for 2006. The worldwide trend in organic products continues and suppliers are responding. This pavilion provides an exciting forum showcasing innovative companies and certified organic products.

And finally, always a favorite, the International Pavilion provides a special arena for purchasing agents, buying teams and other decision-makers to find new products and vendors with the capacity for business overseas.

Don't forget to visit the Culinology Demonstrations where the grab-and-go trend is the theme of each demonstration. Though these foods are all easy to eat and easy to clean-up, no one single grab-and-go option suits all consumers. Watch food scientists collaborate with top chefs from the Research Chefs Association as they serve up one grab-and-go culinary innovation each expo day.

If you are one who plans ahead, hopefully you signed up for this special technical field trip-and it's not a trip to Mickey's kitchen. Publix Super Markets, the largest and fastest-growing employee-owned supermarket chain in the United States, happens to own and operate three dairy processing facilities that employ approximately 575 associates. The company has made its Lakeland, Fla., plant available for an organized tour during this year's IFT.

The three dairy facilities together produce about 1.7 billion lbs of product annually for sale in Publix retail stores as well as to external customers. The Lakeland facility processes and manufactures milk, fruit juices, fruit drinks, packaged ice, drinking and spring water, carbonated beverages, ice cream, and cultured products such as yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese.

Enjoy the magic of this year's IFT!

Sidebar: Must-see Sessions for Dairy Industry Professionals

(am: 9:00 am to noon; pm: 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm)
Sun., June 25 pm
15. Dairy foods oral session 1 (cheese and cultures).

Mon., June 26 am
28. The health benefits of fermented foods.

Mon., June 26 am
35. Dairy foods oral session 2 (milk and whey).

Mon., June 26 pm
47. Whey protein: Physiological effects and emerging health benefits.

Mon., June 26 pm
50. Intestinal health: Benefits and consumer acceptance.

Tues., June 27 am
55. Food industry trends and innovations panel.

Tues., June 27 am
63. Potential health benefits of whole foods and their isolated bioactive components

Wed., June 28 am
104. Dairy ingredients-underpinning science, commercial success

Wed., June 28 am
107. Prebiotics in health promotion

Sidebar: Mintel's New Product Showcases

Mintel will present new product trends from around the world in booth 989. Three separate trends will be examined from a regional point of view. Tasting sessions will enhance the attendee experience. The tasting schedule for Sunday through Tuesday is:
12:30 pm
Global Flavor Trends

2:00 pm
Global Health & Wellness Trends

4:00 pm
Global Food & Beverage Trends Through the Life Stages