“Everyone has to eat.”

A food plant manager with whom I once worked offered this statement to explain why he left an unsuccessful business to run his own grocery store.

His rationale is common. The food industry is regarded as a safe, if not particularly dynamic, haven to park one's financial assets and career. Although this year's Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Expo in Anaheim, Calif., re-emphasized the industry's steadfastness, a glimpse of new opportunities was found in the changing nature of show floor offerings. Here are just a few comments.

Supplements and Nutrition. As one attendee offered, “There's a push on nutrition, using beverages as delivery vehicles.” Antioxidants in the form of proteins, plant extracts—or any compound that could be positioned with that nutritional benefit—abounded. The presence of supplement companies exhibiting at the show for the first time or firms returning to the food industry after a stint of stressing sales to supplement manufacturers, illustrates the strength of the nutrition trend.

Fat replacers were gone. One low-calorie sweetener supplier noted its product was being used to reduce calorie content on the label. Companies shied away from an actual “diet” flag, however.

Interest in organic/non-GMO products continued, and these traits were popularly applied to soy-based ingredients. This, likely, will lead to suppliers being more involved with the agricultural industry than they are used to. One attendee suggested that “Good Farming Practices” (GFPs), which refers to seed control and identity preservation, may become a more familiar term.

Food Styles. With several notable exceptions, few exhibitors showcased applications as a celebration of food. Attendees hoping for guidance in trendy seasonings and food components had to struggle to put a “sure-fire” picture together. Perhaps exhibitors hesitated to tip their hand to competitors and non-customers. However, another explanation lies in the show itself. As a vendor of gourmet, whole-food components noted, “Unless someone is a culinologist or cooks a great deal at home, they 'don't get it.'” Trained in food science, many IFT goers are more comfortable with flavoring systems and food additives rather than with sautéed shallots and gourmet cuisine.

Divining shifts in consumer and industry interests is crucial. Prepared Foods intends to assist you with that task. Success even in the food industry is not guaranteed. For example, my co-worker, the plant manager, did not achieve his goals in the grocery business, either. “Everyone has to eat,” he said, then added “but they don't have to eat your food.”

Internet Information

For more information on subjects covered in this issue's articles, see the Internet sites provided below.

Pass the Sauce
www.mintel.com — Mintel International Group
www.reckitt.com — Reckitt Benckiser
www.campbellsoup.com — Campbell Soup Company
www.heinz.com — H.J. Heinz

Innovating in the Food Industry
www.traderjoes.com — Trader Joe’s
www.doblin.com — Doblin Inc.

Satisfying the Yen for Asian Cuisines
www.promarinternational.com/studiesforsale.html — Promar International, click on Consumer Insights: US and Canada
http://asiarecipe.com — Culture and recipes on all Asian countries.
www.cuisinenet.com/glossary/seaed2.html — Southeast Asian cuisine information
www.astaspice.org — American Spice Trade Association
www.asiafood.org — Glossary of Asian food terms and recipes
www.thaitable.com — Thai cooking and ingredients
www.satayusa.com —Texas Food Research, Inc.
www.jollibee.com.ph/corporate/phenomenon.htm — Jollibee Food Corp.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Bulletins/faq.html#omega — USDA information — American Heart Association

Demystifying Label Claims
www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/flg-key.html — FDA Labeling
www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_01/21cfrv2_01.html — Nutrient content claims

Building a Safety Net for Meats
www.meatami.com — American Meat Institute
www.aamp.com — American Assoc. of Meat Processors