For breakfast today I had double-fiber bread toast and a cup of Greek yogurt—the Americanized version, with enough sugar content to please the Yank palate.
These are the sorts of food innovations that one might expect to easily roll out from the food scientists who make up the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting, which begins next week in Chicago.
Instead, the show tends to create food innovations that come only from the big three subsidized crops from the heartland around Chicago—soybeans, wheat, corn. Whatever can be designed with these three crops that is salty, sugary, fatty or crunchy qualifies as a consumer-based benefit. Because taste is king, right?
In the last couple of years, the impressive seminar series at the IFT show has included a number of panels comprised of on-the-defensive food technologists trying to buck up their colleagues that GMO soybean oil constitutes an actual consumer benefit, that healthy and clean-label foods was (hopefully) a fad driven by boisterous West Coast Occupy types, that monoculture crops made sense (particularly when you don’t take environmental concerns into account).
Meanwhile, the natural products shopper is moving the needle in natural food retail outlets, helping these stores make multiples beyond the standard 3 percent margin at mainstream grocery stores.
In today’s post-modern era, consumers are rebelling against producer-led innovations such as GMOs and taste-based innovations like so much salt. Nutrition has gained sway, and beyond that, early adopting consumers are seeking out whole-food nutrition. Savvy suppliers are delivering, too.
Protein supplier Glanbia Nutritionals, for instance, has its range of Optisol brand protein and flax systems that can emulsify, stabilize, and otherwise replace things like sugar, eggs, fats, hydrocolloids. And on the label, the ingredient would read simply, “Milk protein.” Like!
Out of the U.K.—perhaps the leading country in terms of clean-label appeal—Ulrick and Short provides its Delyte ingredient solutions to replace fat and, as a bonus, can increase water binding and improve succulence. It even extends shelf life!
In fact, in the last three or four years there’s been a distinct shift on the IFT show floor. Next week you can go down many aisles and it will look exactly like any other nutritional ingredient supply show floor in the business. I’d say it’s about 25 percent—and growing—natural and nutritional. But take one wrong turn and you’re back in the chemistry lab, with companies doing fine work on behalf of the aforementioned salt, sugar, fat, crunch.