CHICAGO — An example of “translational food science” might be customizing sports drinks for specific athletes. It also might be engaging with a community to develop nutritional products.

Hamsa Thota, Ph.D., founder and president of Innovation Business Development, Inc.

Hamsa Thota, Ph.D., founder and president of Innovation Business Development, Inc., said he created the phrase “translational food science.” The idea differs from how food scientists once approached their jobs, he said in a July 14 presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago.

Food scientists in the 1970s and 1980s worked in a closed innovation model, he said. Companies protected intellectual property and trade secrets. Food scientists concentrated on product innovation designed to grow a company’s brand through market share.

“So in many cases we were not allowed to share what we were doing,” Dr. Thota said.

Now, he proposes food scientists consider the three c’s: creativity, communication and collaboration. Researchers, suppliers, manufacturers and “influencers” might collaborate on a project, he said.

“It could be Lady Gaga,” Dr. Thota said of an “influencer.”

He pointed to PepsiCo, Inc. as a company that takes such an approach to innovation. The company recently worked with Brazil’s national soccer team to develop specially designed Gatorade bottles. The bottles contained specific mixes of Gatorade that were custom engineered for each and every soccer player. Sip sensors in the bottle kept track of how much Gatorade each player drank during a game.

Researchers also should recognize food is both functional and social, Dr. Thota said. Forecasts have the world’s population reaching 8.5 billion by 2030. Such growth may create civic and social needs that food scientists could address through open innovation methods.

On a more local level, the food industry might develop nutritional food and beverage products that nourish people based on co-creation with a community. Food companies or food organizations might benefit from the new knowledge gained from such collaborations, Dr. Thota said.