Fresh or frozen; boxed or bottled; trucked, shipped or flown, the magic of food science and technology makes it possible to feed the masses. This magic is particularly important during challenging economic times, when consumers seek out value-added options at the supermarket, which include descriptors such as convenience, extended shelf life and enhanced nutrition.
Indeed, today’s consumers want more bang for their buck. Attendees of the 2009 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo will explore advancements in food science and technology that assist in adding value to product innovations.
According to market analyst Christopher Shanahan during a Web presentation on Frost and Sullivan’s global economic outlook for the food and beverage market, focusing on health and wellness and building brand awareness are the most successful strategies for weathering the global economic storm. This theme will be prominent at the convention, which runs June 6 to 10 in Anaheim, Calif.
Upwards of 20,000 food scientists, suppliers, marketers and others from around the globe meet annually at the world’s largest annual food science forum and exposition. They are attracted by the promise of encountering the driving forces behind the innovations and information affecting consumers, growers, processors, regulators and researchers who make the U.S. food supply diverse. Experts from companies, government agencies and research institutions will provide insight during more than 1,000 presentations covering topics ranging from new health and safety benefits and product innovations to the latest consumer favorites, fears and trends. Approximately 1,000 companies utilizing 250,000 square-feet of exhibition space will present their latest advancements for making food more fun, functional, nutritious, appealing and accessible - and able to thrive during a recession.
Shanahan says that the food industry is well-positioned to survive the economic crisis. With regard to what will convince shoppers to spend, Shanahan says, “There are two main motivations driving consumers: fear and greed.” Companies are able to profit from consumer fear by reassuring them about familiar brands and recipes, ensuring that their brand has maximum exposure, and by emphasizing the health and wellness aspects of their products. As for greed, Shanahan explained that this referred to consumers seeking “luxury and indulgence at affordable prices.”
“Over the past year, we’ve seen people trying to save money on food by either dining out less, cutting supermarket bills, or both. More people cook at home now, but they still want healthy, convenient, tasty food and drink for their dollar,” says Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel, Chicago.
According to The Nielsen Co., New York, companies must resist the impulse to pull back on product development during a recession. In the February 2009 edition of Nielsen Consumer Insight, the company states that successfully launching new products is always tricky, but recessionary environments pose their own set of unique challenges and the margin for error declines. Investments receive more scrutiny and priorities shift from more “normal” times. The temptation to view new item innovation as a discretionary expense can be strong.
At the same time, much has been written about new product successes that have been birthed during hard economic times and the need to resist the impulse to pull back on new product development. To be sure, some changes in marketing activity are necessary when the economy is slumping. But the rationale for strategic choices during these times should have more to do with a clear view of the fundamentals than with fear of failure and uncertainty.
You can be guaranteed that dairy food innovation is alive and thriving, and will be the focal point of many exhibitors at IFT. Further, the overall theme of this year’s convention - Food Science from Producer to Consumer - emphasizes traceability and food safety, items on every manufacturer’s mind these days.
Attendees will learn more about how food science and technology can be leveraged to deliver safe, sustainable, affordable, innovative, healthful and appealing foods, both locally and globally.
New this year, are IFT’s Trend Tours, which are self-guided tours that take attendees to the booths of exhibiting companies that offer innovative products or services related to four key food industry trends, as identified by Food Technology magazine. This year’s topics are: flavor and color innovation, ingredients for functional foods, naturally sourced and weight management. Look for Trend Tour maps at the entrances to the expo.
Further, attendees will find a wide variety of new sessions, including Journal of Food Science-sponsored sessions on nanoscale technology, IFT Achievement Award oral sessions showcasing several of this year’s award winners and a Food Expo Innovation Award session that features the innovations from select winners of IFT’s prestigious Food Expo Innovation Award
The local theme becomes more prominent with a number of IFT-sponsored activities. To address the growing hunger problem in Orange County, Calif., IFT has partnered with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County to assist with inspecting and sorting donated food, gleaning fresh produce, labeling products, repacking bulk products and more. All attendees are encouraged to participate. Sign up online at www.ift.org/ift09.
Also, Disney Consumer Products (DCP) and IFT’s Student Association (IFTSA) have teamed up this year for the inaugural Nutritious Food for Kids Competition. Reinforcing Disney’s long term commitment to providing more nutritious food options for kids around the world and recognizing the need to foster food science talent, DCP and IFTSA are providing students the opportunity to apply food science skills through the creation of nutritious, fun, kid-friendly food products.
The Walt Disney Co. introduced nutritious food guidelines in 2006 that limit the use of the Disney name and its characters to only those kid-focused products that meet specific limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar. DCP’s food portfolio offers nutritious options in key meal categories including bread, pasta, dairy and baked goods. Additionally, its fresh produce category continues to grow globally with more than 400 million servings of Disney produce served to date.
This competition seamlessly integrates with IFTSA’s commitment to health and wellness and the organization’s long term vision of “healthier people everywhere.” Teams of two to five food science students (current IFTSA members only) were tasked with creating a retail or foodservice product for children under the age of 12 that incorporates a fruit or vegetable into the product or formulation. Preliminary proposals for the first round of the competition were due March 1. Six finalist teams received travel grants to attend and present their entries at the final round of the competition during the convention on June 8. Student teams will be evaluated on three major criteria including: product, process and safety/regulations. This is a must-see competition for all convention attendees, as it provides a glimpse of the future - of what magic food science and technology will yield in years to come.
The Magical World of Dairy The Magical World of DairyAt the IFT ’09 Annual Meeting & Food Expo, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill., will demonstrate how dairy ingredients and dairy foods deliver exceptional nutrition, functionality and flavor to meet today’s consumer demands for convenient and healthier food choices. Located at booth 327, DMI will be sampling several prototypes that feature value-added dairy ingredients. Also, experts from DMI, the National Dairy Foods Research Centers and other partners will present symposia and short courses to share the latest in cutting-edge dairy nutrition research. An additional symposium sponsored by DMI will explain the collaborative effort currently under way to improve the sustainability of the dairy industry. “We look forward to sharing with our industry partners the very latest in dairy ingredient and product research innovations,” says Alan Reed, senior vice president, U.S. manufacturing & ingredients marketing, DMI.
On the menu• Whey protein-enhanced bars are designed to help curb hunger.
• Jack ‘n mac is traditional comfort food with a twist, including reduced-fat pepper jack cheese.
• Whey protein-enhanced smoothie is targeted to women to help make the most of a workout.
• Yogurt ranch reduced-fat, natural dressing/dip has a clean ingredient label that appeals to consumers.
• Probiotic ice cream delivers good-for-you bacteria at dessert time.
Symposia to attend• Unique Aspects of Dairy Fat in Health: Mon., June 8, 10:30 a.m. Americans are counseled to control their total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol consumption. However, in 14 out of 19 prospective and other cohort epidemiological studies, there was no association between milk and/or dairy food intake and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Compared to other dietary fats, milk fat contains many beneficial components and a unique composition. In this session, emerging research documenting various effects of milk fat consumption, and constituents thereof, will be presented.
• Vitamin D and Health: Implications to the Food Industry: Mon., June 8, 1:30 p.m. Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem. This symposium will review the latest research on the biology of and requirements for vitamin D and address how the food industry can help increase consumer intake of vitamin D through dairy and other food fortification.
• Dairy Foods as Dietary Sources of Vitamin D: Tues., June 9, 10:30 a.m. Vitamin D sufficiency is required to maintain bone integrity and innate immunity. This symposium will give participants an understanding of vitamin D’s biological function, the vitamin D status of Americans and dietary recommendations of vitamin D. In addition, participants will learn about regulatory requirements and learn from industry leaders in marketing vitamin D-fortified foods and beverages.
• Using Sustainability, Sound Science and Stakeholder Collaboration to Drive Innovation and Growth across the Supply Chain: Tues., June 9, 1:15 p.m. The dairy industry is responding to consumer and customer demand for more sustainable products, using sound science to drive innovation and position dairy products for long-term growth. Stakeholders from across the dairy supply chain will explain why sustainability is a challenge that requires industry-wide collaboration, describing ways to assess environmental impact and identify opportunities for change and work across the supply chain.