Hopefully your summer travels find you in Chicago, host to this year’s IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo. And, bring a healthy appetite, because the more than 1,000 exhibitors have been busy the past year developing innovations that are right on track with today’s trends.

New products, emerging trends and the very latest sound science are just some of the reasons that 23,000 top food science and industry professionals will gather at the IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago July 28-August 1.

Hopefully your summer travels find you in Chicago, host to this year’s IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo. And, bring a healthy appetite, because the more than 1,000 exhibitors have been busy the past year developing innovations that are right on track with today’s trends.

Two must-see general sessions

The general session on Tuesday morning, July 31, focuses on what all the trends are and how product developers can incorporate them into their efforts. Entitled “Where Do We Go From Here? The Experts Speak Out!,” Barbara Katz, president, HealthFocus International, St. Petersburg, Fla., will discuss highlights from the HealthFocus 2007 survey on changing consumers’ health, nutrition and wellness attitudes, behaviors and concerns. LuAnn Williams of Innova Market Insights in The Netherlands, will identify the trends and product categories that have staying power and what products, packaging and positionings can translate across borders. Joe Pawlak of Chicago-based Technomic Inc., will focus on the macro trends underlying away-from-home food choices and concerns, up-and-coming industry issues, and future directions for the restaurant and foodservice industries. Finally, Peter Barton Hutt, senior counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Covington & Burling will provide insights into where food regulations and issues are headed in the United States and abroad. This is a must-see session for all IFT attendees.

A day earlier, Monday, July 30, the morning general session is entitled “Senior Executives Cut the Fat on Industry’s Approach to Health, Wellness and Foods.” The session will focus on health-promoting ingredients and foods. Senior executives from leading global food companies will speak on such issues as obesity, food safety, trans fats, sustainability, regulations, tariffs, GMOs and other issues pertaining to this year’s annual meeting theme of health, wellness and food. The panel of executives will address the opportunities and challenges of making health and wellness products work in the market and ultimately increase business.

Changes in the scientific program

This year’s scientific program, which runs Sunday through Wednesday has about double the number of sessions as previous years when the technical sessions were scheduled for about three hours each. This year’s technical sessions are 90 minutes long, the ideal length of time for learning, according to accepted adult-learning principles, and there will be a 30-minute break between sessions for networking and refreshing. Poster sessions, which inherently allow ample time for networking and interaction, will continue to be three and a half hours long Sunday afternoon and Monday and Tuesday morning and afternoon.

Three full exposition days

At the Food Expo part of this year’s IFT, which is open from 11:00am until 5:30pm, Sunday through Tuesday, more than 1,000 companies from around the world will exhibit their new products, tools, techniques and services in more than 240,000 sq ft of space. Food Expo will also feature some new as well as returning activities.

New this year is the Food Expo Innovation Awards. Open only to exhibiting companies, this competition will honor the most innovative product, technology, ingredient, instrumentation, equipment or service-or new applications of existing products and services-commercially introduced by Food Expo exhibitors since Jan. 1, 2006. Judged by an independent, expert panel, the winning entries will be announced during the Keynote Session on Sunday morning, prior to the opening of Food Expo, allowing winning companies to promote their achievements at their booths.

Also new in 2007 is the New Products & Technologies Forum. Onstage on the Food Expo floor, this activity features the top-six of the nearly 100 abstracts submitted for presentation in the traditional New Products & Technologies sessions. The six presenters are provided 30 minutes-15 minutes more than in the sessions-to discuss their latest technologies in greater depth. Attendees have the added opportunity to obtain food samples and literature. Three presentations are scheduled for Sunday afternoon and three more for Monday afternoon. In addition, eight other New Products & Technologies presentations will be available as tabletop exhibits during the forum.

Returning this year are two pavilions dedicated to innovation. At Mintel’s “Global New Products Pavilion” (Sunday–Tuesday), the following presentations will be made: “The Next Big Thing in Health” as determined through analysis of U.S. restaurant menus, at 11:30 a.m. each day. Also each day, “Products for Enhanced Memory and Brain Function” will be addressed at 12:30 p.m., “Free-From Foods” at 2:30 p.m. and “Emerging Flavor Trends at 4:30 p.m. Attendees at these three sessions will have the opportunity to view and sample more than 60 new products from around the world illustrating the latest trends.

Innova’s “Taste the Trend Pavilion” will focus on accelerating international trends and emerging technologies. The pavilion will be divided into three zones: Packaging, Flavors and Consumer Insights. Each zone will include a series of poster sessions. The pavilion will also demonstrate more than 200 international products, complete with opportunities for six new beverage concepts and tastings. The Innova Database team will be on hand to answer questions and guide attendees around the pavilion.

And finally, back by popular demand because everyone wants to be a chef these days, including food scientists, there’s the IFT/RCA Culinology Demonstrations. Chefs from the Research Chefs Association (RCA) will again team up with IFT food scientists and student members of each organization to present live product development demonstrations on the Food Expo floor. This year’s theme is “A Taste of Health.” Each day, a new team of chefs and scientists will present an innovative food product that addresses the nutritional needs of a specific demographic group. They will explain their collaborative process from idea to final product and will provide the audience with samples.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for next year when IFT goes back to New Orleans. Scheduled for June 28 to July 2, 2008, in the Big Easy, next year’s convention takes on the theme “Innovations in Food.” For now, see you in The Windy City!

Dairy Proteins Headline Two Symposia

The latest nutritional and functional benefits of dairy protein-benefits that can spark innovative new dairy and dairy-based products-will be explored in two IFT symposia sponsored by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill.

“Macronutrient Approaches to Weight Management and Reducing Risk of Metabolic Syndrome: The Emerging Role of Dairy and Dairy Protein (Mon., July 30, 2:00 to 3:35 p.m.) will describe the role that dairy and higher-protein diets can play in weight management, body composition and risk of metabolic syndrome. Sixty million Americans may have metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with obesity that can lead to type-2 diabetes. Emerging research suggests that increased dairy and/or dairy protein consumption may help manage metabolic syndrome, offering opportunities for dairy product innovation.

“Expanding the Functionality of Whey Protein in Foods and Beverages (Tues., July 31, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.) will feature new ways to maximize whey protein’s functionality in bars, beverages and other food systems. Highlights include new research on whey protein stability, clarity and flavor as well as extending the shelflife of nutrition bars made with whey protein. The session also will cover emerging research on whey protein’s influence on muscle synthesis and satiety that supports development of new health and wellness products.