The annual IFT show in Anaheim this past week, while successful overall, received mixed response from attendees and exhibitors.
The show floor, containing over 800 exhibitors was diverse and featured representatives from most parts of the globe with strong participation from Asia and Mexico in particular. Attendance at booths was steady opening day, Sunday, but lighter on subsequent days. The technical sessions were attended with interest by show participants, especially the largely academic IFT membership and the poster sessions were topical with discussions on subjects ranging from food safety to microbiology to beverage ingredients and more.
As with other shows, a furious debate continues to rage over participation. With increasing travel costs and issues, economic and business pressures, companies are rethinking tradeshow participation in many industries. For IFT, a large portion of exhibitors are in favor of moving the show to an every two years format. The IFT, despite this serious pressure, remains committed to an annual show, already looking ahead to next July’s event in Chicago. With the event being a substantial contributor to organization finances, a year’s wait would be a devastating economic hit. Many hope the location next year in a more central location will produce higher attendance. A change this year was lengthening Expo hours on Monday and Tuesday, opening the exhibit hall at 10:00 in the morning. This proved to be a double edged sword, providing exhibitors with a few extra hours of sparse traffic and creating more conflict for those wishing to participate in the technical sessions.
The show press conferences were no well attended, an indication perhaps of few true innovations or newsworthy announcements. While show organizers did post press conference notices, much of the communication needed to be done by the companies themselves. (Note to future participants: If you’re going to schedule a press conference at the show, do your own promotion of it as well) From the corporate side, the formalization of the relationship between Fortitech and BASF did draw notice, and from the product side, Kemin Foods GRAS affirmation for seven new categories and launch of lutein containing beverages was significant.
From the Natural Products perspective, it seemed that food companies on the show floor, while offering some novel nutritional and functional ingredients, were doing so in operating divisions at arm’s length from mainstream operations and the finished products themselves were positioned as line extensions. This conservatism in approach did not discourage the enthusiasm for the natural products and supplement company representatives walking the show floor or at booths.
Overall, the event was well organized, registration processes were smooth and communication regarding events was ample with only a few minor exceptions. Show staff was available to support attendees and exhibitors alike.
Those who participated indicated their intention to participate next year, although exhibitors commented they may bring a lower staff complement.
The show was worthwhile as always for those with specific and defined objectives whether exhibitors or attendees. As we straddle the line between food, natural products, technology and nutrition, events that cover the intersection points are critical. The significant numbers that realized this got value from this past week