The 20th Annual New Products Conference took place last month at the Scottsdale Princess Hotel in Arizona.

One purpose of the conference is to give the top industry professionals a chance to rub elbows, with the hope of sparking new marketing and product ideas. We were blessed to have many good speakers at this year's event, and their speeches, presentations and ideas shared common threads: innovation, a clear understanding of consumer needs, and risk-taking.

Steve Allen, vice president of new business development for Nestle, offered a glimpse into a future where those who are pre-disposed to a disease, such as cancer, for example, could take supplements proven to help avoid it. Scott Lutz, formerly the CEO and president of 8th Continent, advised companies to be great at what they do, and had much success with helping companies stay true to their “souls.” Peter van Stolk, founder and CEO of Jones Soda Co., said he based his company's success on creating an emotional tie with consumers, and has done it with the innovative use of labeling. (Intrigued? The presentation materials are available on CD.)

A Hit on Many Levels

Today's sophisticated consumers are not content to buy items that serve their needs adequately. They are interested in experimenting and trying foods and beverages that will enhance and complement their lives. It was no surprise that Yoplait's (General Mills) Go-Gurt yogurt was highlighted repeatedly as an example of a hit product. The company understood that success depended on harmonizing the needs of parents concerned about their kids' diets (yogurt as a healthy snack) with a product to appeal to children (yogurt in cool flavors in a really neat tube).

There still is room to create new products that will be exciting and useful to consumers.

The U.S. demographic is changing. Baby Boomers, reluctant to face their mortality, are interested in foods that contain antioxidants, anti-aging ingredients, bone health-enhancers, energy boosters, lutein, vitamins C and E, soy, weight-control ingredients and other elements that help them maintain youth and health. This will be the first generation to have a large number of post-menopausal women live long lives. That population also will have special needs.

Baby Boomers really are interested in making the most of their middle ages. Food formulators can help by giving them new tools in the form of customized foods and beverages.

Internet Information

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

All of Meat — Mintel International Group — Kraft Foods — Jimmy Dean Foods — ConAgra — Hormel Foods — Johnsonville Foods

Calcium in Prepared Foods —Ingredients in Use: Calcium, C. O’Donnell, October 2002 — Dairy Management Inc.’s dairy ingredient application website — Online calcium information resource

Global Culinary Trends — An upscale frozen foods manufacturer, — Swedish restaurant where Chef Goldhahn works, and his e-mail address — High-end, exclusive gourmet trips to France — Chef Henderson’s website — Canadian Personal Chef Alliance — Chef Trilling’s Rancho Aurora in Oaxaca, Mexico — Gourmet trips to Mexico by Marilyn Tausend