Trends From the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Show

Trends From the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Show

July 24, 2013

Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA
Executive Director, RDBA

I’ve established a habit over the past several years of attending the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).  I find it fascinating to see what’s top of mind for those actively engaged in the development of food products sold in grocery stores every day, both as shown in the educational program and on the expo floor.  This year didn’t disappoint.

Here are highlights I found interest at the show:

  • Antioxidants.  In May of 2012, the USDA removed the ORAC value database from their website over concern that the data was being misused by the food and dietary supplement manufacturers as well as consumers.  They took a lot of heat for it.  But in a well done session at the IFT show, they clearly and scientifically made the case that ORAC activity measured in a test tube has no relationship to whether or not certain foods have antioxidant action in the body.  Neither the Canadian Food Inspection Agency nor the European Food Safety Authority allows claims related to antioxidants.
  • Sustainability.  The most impactful message on this topic was that companies should be comparing their products and practices over time, measuring improvements year over year.  There is no absolute definition of what “sustainable” is, and becoming more sustainable is what matters.
  • Children’s Food Choices.  This session was a hot bed of great information.  The fact that young children prefer sweet foods is biology, as they have 3-4 taste receptors for sweet and 40-80 for bitter.  But familiarity is a big driver in kids’ liking for foods.  Exposure to vegetable flavors in utero and through breastfeeding can increase acceptance of these flavors the first time the child is then exposed to them. 
  • DHA, Brain Health and Kids.  Dr. A. Richardson from Oxford University indicated that the science on omega-3 and intelligence in children is so compelling that we should be fortifying foods with DHA and EPA in the same way our country has added folic acid to foods.  Be clear, sources of alpha linolenic acid are not adequate to get kids or adults to the levels of EPA and DHA needed for health benefit.
  • New Flavors and Ideas.  The show floor was filled with new concepts and ideas ranging from almond milk (made by steeping crushed almonds) to chocolate malts with beer flavoring added to gluten free cookies made with potato flakes.
  • Food vs. the Technology of Food.  A colleague attending the IFT show for the first time made a compelling observation, that the IFT show is more about the technology of food than food itself.  I stewed on this long and hard, and agree that there’s an opportunity to make discussion of food more visible throughout this conference.