American culture is showing hopeful signs of awakening to the need for healthy foods in the diet. From the increasing numbers of cities and fast-food giants that have recently banned trans fats, to exponential growth in awareness of the healthy effects of probiotics, fibre, essential fatty acids and more, a revolution is under way. In 2006, sales of functional, natural, organic and better-for-you foods reached $120 billion, 21 per cent of total food sales, and are expected to grow to 25 per cent by 2010, according to Nutrition Business Journal.
Coming on the cusp of this movement, The Fourth Annual Healthy Foods Conference (held in conjunction with the Natural Products Expo East) will feature some of the most respected presenters and speakers in the industry. Experts on everything from school lunches, to the marketing of healthy products, to the relationship between foods and disease will share their latest insights and information.
Providing the keynote address is Walter Willett, MD, PhD, the internationally renowned nutritionist, and among the five most-cited persons in all fields of clinical science. A professor of epidemiology at Harvard's School of Public Health, Dr Willett is among those most responsible for establishing the link between diet, lifestyle and health. "I will, of course, talk about trans fat and the additional adverse consequences that we are finding from consuming trans fat," he says. "Trans fat is clearly a toxic collection of chemicals that must be removed from the food supply, and as quickly as possible." He will also address what the next targets need to be, including soda and other high-sugar beverages.
Noted nutrition strategy consultant Stephanie French, of Nutrition Directions Ltd, will deliver the address at the closing plenary session. "We're living in a time in which companies need to ask, 'What are we about in the overall health and wellness industry?'" she says. "Remarkably, companies are only now beginning to recognize this. Things are moving quite quickly, consumer awareness is growing daily. In Europe, many companies are just trying to keep up with regulatory changes and requirements. But companies must become pro-active if they are to remain players. They can't just stand back, but must develop a longer-term strategy for health and wellness for 10 years down the road."
French says she will address how to prepare for future scenarios, such as consumer trends toward self diagnosis, and emerging technologies that will enable computerized management of diets. As well, she will discuss the impact of emerging methods for enhancing nutrient content in foods early in the process, such as with genetically modified rice.
Steen Stender, MD, Gentofte University Hospital, Hellerup, Denmark, will speak in the afternoon on getting trans fats off the menu.
Panel discussions include Kids, Food Service and the Organic Opportunity; Packaging Innovation — New Applications and Marketing.
Noted panelists include James Tonkin, Tonkin Consulting; Loren Israelsen, LDI Group; Jeff Hilton, Integrated Marketing Group; Steve Rosskam, DM Flavors; Anthony Almada, IMAGINutrition; Tim Avila, ZSweet; Steve Snyder, Cargill; Amy Bodiker, Stone Barn's Center for Food and Agriculture; and Richard Swain, Packaging Arts.