I.F.T. gains give signals, positive and less so
To longtime participants, “positive vibes” were evident at the 2013 Annual Meeting and Food Expo of the Institute of Food Technologists last week in Chicago. Beyond expanded registration from last year to 23,500, ingredient suppliers were encouraged by a sense that the atmosphere for food and beverage product innovation was on the upswing. This improved picture also stemmed from the view that the nation’s economy continues to recover from the deep recession.
Amid many positives at I.F.T., a number of themes were seen as less encouraging. In particular, the term “aversion” would best capture the objective of many ingredients showcased by suppliers, rather than “innovation” or “enhancement.” Ingredients offering food processors paths to products that are “G.M.O. free,” lower in sodium, contain less sugar or no HFCS, have fewer calories or are gluten-free at times appeared to dominate offerings. This theme reflects the broader national view of food products as problematic rather than positive.
In the case of gluten-free, differences between this category and Atkins in the early 2000s were readily apparent. Presentations dug deeper into ways companies may enhance the taste, texture and nutrition of gluten-free products. Considerable attention went to the challenges of avoiding ingredient contamination with wheat at multiple stages in the supply chain. For the flour-based foods industry, any time “contaminant” and “wheat” are used together causes worry.