Nutracon speakers feed your mind

In the spirit of our annual trends issue, this article is dedicated to the future as seen through the eyes of the Nutracon conference, a sister event to Functional Ingredients magazine held March 10-11 in Anaheim, just prior to Natural Products Expo West. Each of the content pieces presented here represents speakers, concepts and challenges that our team see as the future of the natural products and functional ingredients industry.

Included in this special section is content that corresponds with some of the upcoming educational tracks at Nutracon—sweeteners, weight, botanicals, antioxidants and ageing. To begin here is a brief introduction to the conference's opening and closing speakers.

Creative minds think alike
Opening speaker, Gregory Burns, author of iconoclast (Harvard Business School Press, 2008), will get into the minds of conference attendees and teach them what every iconoclast knows how to do — get something done others say cannot be done. Here are some excerpts from his book to get you thinking about how to do a little creative brain surgery on your own gray matter.

"To see things differently than other people, the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before. Novelty releases the perceptual process from the shackles of past experience and forces the brain to make new judgments. … The problem with novelty however, is that, for most people, novelty triggers the fear system in the brain. Fear is the second major impediment to thinking like an iconoclast and stops the average person dead in his tracks… "The true iconoclast, although he may still experience these fears, does not let them inhibit his actions."

"Finally (assuming one has conquered perception and fear), to make the transition to a successful iconoclast, the individual must sell his ideas to other people. This is where social intelligence comes in. … the modern iconoclast navigates a dynamic social network and elicits change that begins with altered perception and ends with effecting change in other people (or dying a failure)."

Wansink makes us think
Closing plenary speaker Brian Wansink PhD, food psychologist and author of Mindless Eating (Bantam, 2006), has been on a self-described mindless-eating mission to identify the hidden persuaders that make us eat too much. Wansink doesn't pick on fast-food restaurants or junk-food manufacturers; he puts the onus squarely on our oversized hips and shows the American public the cues that cause us to overeat. Here are a few excerpts from Mindless Eating:

"All food companies are the same in two respects. It doesn't matter whether you see them as junk-food sinners or health food saints. It doesn't matter whether they manufacture Twinkies in a mile-long production line, or hand form organic soy burgers to sell in the Williams Sonoma catalog … They all have this in common: First they don't care if you eat the food, as long as you repeatedly buy it. Second, they want to make a profit. Maybe in the other order.

"No food company is in the business to make us fat, they're in the business to sell us food. IF we can fattening food to mindlessly eat, companies will fix it. But they will also fix us healthy food that we can mindfully eat if they can profitably do so.

"I believe the 21st century will be the Century of Behavior Change. Medicine will take fundamental discoveries that can fight disease, but changing every day, long-term behavior is key to adding years and quality to our lives. This will involve reducing risky behavior and making changes to exercise and nutrition. There isn't a simply prescription that can be written for such behavior change. Eating better and exercising more are decisions we need to be motivated to make."

Nutracon Conference Tracks
Dig in and focus on one track for a full day or bounce around between these sessions:
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