There's little risk in attending this year's IFT. You're sure to return a winner.

The sound of slot machine payoffs and the sight of showgirls in elaborate headdresses, as well as the occasional Elvis impersonator jumping from a helicopter might have been some of your first thoughts when you started planning your trip to this year's 2004 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and IFT Food Expo® (IFT), which runs July 12-16 in the entertainment capital of the world-Las Vegas. However, by no means will this week in the desert be all play, as the association has planned yet another jam-packed convention with something for everyone involved in the food industry, particularly dairy processors, as dairy is hot, hot, hot (similar to Vegas in July!).

IFT is the largest annual scientific forum and food technology expo in the world. Approximately 20,000 food scientists, technologists, suppliers, marketers and others from around the globe will attend. Though it's difficult not to be lured by the Las Vegas Strip's lights, most are coming to Vegas in order to learn about the driving forces behind the latest innovations and information affecting consumers, growers, processors, regulators and researchers who help make the U.S. food supply the most diverse of any in the world.

At the meeting, answers to the food challenges of today are revealed while the trials of tomorrow are predicted. Academic and industry experts will provide insight (and maybe even some gambling tips) to what's hot and what's not at the 100-plus technical sessions. (See sidebar below for recommended sessions for dairy foods manufacturers and marketers.)

Also, almost 800 exhibitors will utilize 250,000 sq ft of exhibition space to present their most recent innovations designed to make food more fun, functional, nutritious, appealing and accessible to all. (Bring your walking shoes . . . and dress appropriately. Outside it will be over a 100

Come to IFT to learn all about ingredients, processes and even packages that will help you formulate innovative new dairy foods for today's and tomorrow's consumers.

Sessions assist in product development efforts

One of the hottest topics at the show will be formulating foods to help Americans get back in shape. After all, obesity directly affects the way of life for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Attention to obesity is affecting indirectly and increasingly the way consumers, businesses, investors, the public health community and the courts interpret the influential role food plays in everyday life. A special Hot Topic (session 19) will focus on this issue from the perspective of these influential groups.

A second related and specially designed Hot Topic (session 19) will address ways in which the food industry can stay competitive in the rapidly evolving marketplace. Trends and innovations currently easing their way from the development stage and onto the tabletops of consumers will headline the session, with new product research and development and regulatory perspective providing support.

Ingredients with dairy application will be discussed at the seminars and will be on display as you walk the exhibit floor. These include low-calorie sweeteners, fiber, dairy proteins, probiotics, sterols, vitamins and minerals, lutein, and any ingredients that help boost calcium absorption or have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. During session one, ingredients for health and wellness foods will be profiled by leading suppliers.

New this year at IFT is a special product development pavilion, which will include an interactive exhibit featuring chefs in action.
The top 10 new global packaging and product trends will be discussed during session 52, which covers convenient food packaging for today's on-the-go lifestyles. Ten of the most unusual, significant or ground-breaking convenient product packages seen globally will be identified and discussed, with special attention paid to how those packages can be applied to a variety of products-including dairy.

The world's most popular flavors will be on the tip of everyone's tongue, literally, when the latest innovative global food products are presented at a comprehensive review of global new product trends. Also new this year is a special global new product tasting presented by Mintel International Ltd., Chicago. On-stage, right on the Food Expo floor, IFT will host specially prepared presentations that draw upon Mintel's Global New Products Database, a clearinghouse that monitors worldwide product innovation in consumer packaged goods. The three themes are: Health and Wellness Ingredients; Ethnic Flavors; and Convenience and Packaging.

Though IFT has traditionally been an ingredient show, it has become increasingly common to hear about advancements in processing and packaging, as these variables are both critical to a new product's success. Session six looks at a variety of non-thermal processes that have application in the manufacture of dairy foods. The list includes dense-phase carbon dioxide, high-hydrostatic pressure, ozone, pulsed electric fields and ultra-high pressure.

For more information on this year's show, including specifics on the various sessions, visit Viva Las Vegas!

Sidebar: Must-attend IFT Sessions for Dairy Foods Manufacturers

1: Innovations in healthy ingredients
6: Non-thermal processing of dairy products
8: Physics and chemistry of modifying food for caloric reduction
9: Politics of obesity: Revisited
12: Qualified health claims: One year later
17A: Dairy foods: Cheese and microbiology (academia posters)
17B: Dairy foods: General (academia posters)
19: Keeping the food industry competitive: Expanding margins, not waistlines
24: Probiotics in health: Their potential against allergic diseases
25: Qualified health claims: Is the FDA report card making the grade with consumers?
F2: Science on trial: Guilty before proven credible
34: Keeping the food industry competitive: Changing the odds
38: Challenges in the development of functional foods with omega-3 fatty acids
46: Dairy foods: General (academia oral)
52: Convenient food packaging for on-the-go lifestyles
64: Dairy foods: Milk proteins (academia oral)
70: A role of dairy foods in weight management
F5: The revised Food Guide Pyramid: What will it mean to the industry?
101: Alternative carbohydrate sweeteners for diabetic and low-calorie food applications
109: The rheology of dairy foods

Sidebar: IFT Food Expo Hours

Tues., July 13: 12:00pm to 5:30pm
Wed., July 14:10:00am to 5:30pm
Thurs., July 15:10:00am to 5:30pm
Fri., July 16:9:00am to 12:30pm