Eating can be a spiritual experience in ways related not only to religion. As obesity levels spike across the world, more people are adopting their own version of food ethics.

The pages in this issue of Prepared Foods magazine identify the companies providing wellness and organic ingredients, and also capture the essence of selected presentations from the 2005 Prepared Foods' R&D Conference.

As manufacturers peruse these pages, I challenge them, in the “Spirit of Innovation,” to confront their own stereotypes and misgivings about product development in the realm of wellness and organic ingredients.

In doing so, they will need to account for consumer attitudes and needs, ingredient technology and labeling practicality. For example, food processors can ask themselves, “How will consumers react to our company's use of [insert ingredient here] as a substitute to reduce the amount of trans fat reported on our label?”

In both 2003 and 2004, Mintel International Group Ltd. reported that more than half of Americans cited general health as their primary motivation for reading nutrition labels.

I believe many consumers are not certain which particular ingredient they should scan the label for, or even why. Most consumers are frustrated with contradicting messages concerning functional food and beverage claims—both real and misleading. As such, it is imperative that manufacturers are diligent about marketing holistic ingredients accurately and within the context of their product's purpose; otherwise, consumer apathy and distrust will prevail over even the best marketing deployment.

Furthermore, food makers must be cognizant that consumers not only want food for survival, but also food for the soul. They want to eat foods they trust will be safe for the environment and their own bodies. To achieve this mandate the following advice might be helpful:

  • Remember, there are no “evil” food groups.

  • Invest time to learn about the benefits that organic and functional foods could have in your product lines.

  • Don't jump the gun on studies and statistics that denounce or hail an ingredient.

  • During formulation, be conscious of ingredient conflicts that might lead to adverse or innocuous dietary results.

    Hopefully, reflection on areas of food ethics will ignite inspiration towards a slew of entries for the 2006 Spirit of Innovation Awards. We announce two winners per year but, for entrants driven in the “real” spirit of innovation, consolation prizes include lifelong, loyal customers.