Happily, our conference and several other conventions I've since attended have had more robust crowds than were on the beach that night. Although all the events had reduced turnouts (when compared to recent years), the attendees who ventured back into the airways were positioned for an updated "view" on our industry. Here are a few highlights.
Branding Oneself. Speaking at Prepared Foods' New Product Conference, Cathy Kapica, director of nutrition, The Quaker Oats Company, listed important considerations in marketing nutritional products.
Women are still the primary market targets, since they tend to be more interested in nutrition and usually are the "gate keepers" to the family's food choices. Food fortification is often a plus because it provides an aura of healthfulness, she noted. Lastly, "individual nutrition" is a growing trend where consumers are asking, "What applies to me?"
Harvey Hartman, founder and CEO of The Hartman Group, offered another facet of individual nutrition. There is no mass market but rather niches driven by a consumers' experiences, emotions and lifestyles. They seek tailored wellness regimes. “Individuals are trying to 'brand themselves,'” notes Hartman. [An extensive coverage of this conference will appear in PF's December issue.]
Hemp and Hormones. The Natural Products Expo East, held in Washington D.C, continues to provide intriguing hints to long-term trends, as well as the next hot fad. The challenge, as always, is figuring out which is which. Hemp-based products—from "peanut" butter to waffles—were plentiful. The protein content and essential fatty acids contained in edible hemp products, which lack psychoactive levels of THC (of marijuana fame), were highlighted.
In recent years, women's health concerns, particularly health risks associated with menopause, have received much attention. This year, a number of booths focused on the declining levels of various hormones, including growth and testosterone. The term "andropause" describes conditions in the aging male. Booths offered methods such as test kits (to be sent into labs) by which individuals could monitor their own hormone levels.
Moving Mainstream. The meetings of both the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC), Charlotte, and the Worldwide Food Expo (WWFE), Chicago, offered more mainstream agendas. At AACC, a few sessions touched on long-standing product development issues—such as fat reduction. Grain nutritional components were also a hot topic. "New" bamboo fibers with unique sensory properties, to cholesterol-lowering phytostanols found in unusually high levels in rye, were promoted in booths and research papers. The WWFE showcased functional ingredients primarily for meat and dairy applications.
Although business travel may never again return to “normal,” attendees at this year's conventions discovered that by braving the sharks, they were also able to view the full moon.