Reflections from IFT
health and wellness and food safety came through as the star
performers, and drivers for the future of the industry.
The take home message was loud and clear for all to hear - health and wellness, that's where the future is. It's not something we didn't already know. When you consider Nestle, the world's biggest food company, is in the midst of transforming itself into a health and wellness company, it doesn't take a PhD to see the bigger picture. Although this was my first IFT, the presence of nutraceutical, functional ingredients has never been greater on the show floor, so I was told. This can only be a good thing. Almost every booth I attended had some ingredient touching on the health and wellness. Some companies even went to extreme lengths to highlight the potential of its ingredients. At one stand I was treated to copious amounts of prebiotic-rich yoghurt, while at another I was fed an entire pizza made from an omega-3 (DHA)-rich dough. Water containing a fifth of my daily fibre needs washed down the pizza, and flavonoid-rich chocolate finished off the meal. Even jet-lag couldn't diminish my healthy glow at the end of the show. But it wasn't just in the booths that nutraceuticals and functional ingredients were grabbing the limelight. The scientific sessions and the posters were also packed with the health boosting potential of various compounds and extracts. The poster sessions, showing as yet unpublished research from (predominantly) universities around the globe gave an insight into the direction of research, with contacts made and subjects flagged for follow-up. While I did spot representatives from some food ingredients companies perusing the posters, it did come as a surprise that many more were not scouring the abstracts and conclusions, spotting opportunities and ideas that they could take home and implement. One big area getting plenty of attention was gut health, with a big presence by probiotics, prebiotics, and fibre producers - which seemed quite apt given that the show was held in the Windy City. Bioterrorism and food security also featured heavily. It was interesting to note that over 50 per cent of press releases from the IFT communications people (not releases from companies) were focussed on safety and bioterrorism. (Less than 25 per cent were about health and wellness). With recent fears over contamination of ingredients fresh in everyone's mind it was unsurprising that this topic figured so heavily. Consumers need to be reassured just as much as the industry as of the quality of ingredients sourced from wherever. But the focus was only really noticeable from the resources available in the press office. On the floor, very little was being said about this, with exhibitors focussing on the positives of their ingredients, and finding innovative ways to draw you into their stand. There were some criticisms uttered of the show, which, as a journalist with a healthy interest in gossip, I quickly picked up on. "Too broad, with no real focus," was one such comment. "Too show-business," was another. Well, you can't please everyone all the time. As a final aside, the choice of hosting the event in Chicago was also a great decision - a city with a unique charm and atmosphere. New Orleans has been named as the host city for next year's show - let's hope it's as good as its predecessor. Stephen Daniells is the Food Science Editor for NutraIngredients.com and FoodNavigator.com. He has a PhD in Chemistry from Queen's University Belfast and has worked in research in the Netherlands and France. If you would like to comment on this article please contact stephen.daniells'at'decisionnews.com