The 2010 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Show was held in Chicago in July, and Prepared Foods’ editors attended en masse to discover a host of new products, interesting trends and potential innovations for new product pipelines. A complete list of every new technology would be far too lengthy, but below are some of the highlights gleaned from three-plus days on the show floor, at exhibitor gatherings and in a variety of networking opportunities.

* A number of suppliers (and other industry segments) are beginning to use the phrase “salt control,” as opposed to the more common “salt reduction.” Why is there a move for such a change? Reasons seemed to vary, but one opinion was that it is a way of describing a formula that actually takes salt content into consideration to maximize its presence in the product’s development, rather than blindly cutting back on the useful ingredient.

* Whatever the term, sodium reduction was a key trend, with one cheese supplier introducing a natural cheese with 25% less sodium, as well as 33% less fat, in such varieties as American, cheddar, hot pepper, Monterey Jack and Swiss.

* Gum Arabic replacers were well-represented. Gum Arabic, a very functional hydrocolloid, is sourced from areas of the world (including Somalia and Sudan) where the supply is easily interrupted, and both cost and availability can be very unstable. As Prepared Foods’ chief editor Claudia O’Donnell notes, “It’s likely impossible to find an exact replacement with the same benefits and functions for all applications. However, if a developer addresses individual functions for specific attributes, alternative ingredients can be found.”

* With the troubled economy improving only slightly, if at all, costs continue to play a key role in developers’ minds, and as such, this year’s IFT Show displayed a variety of ingredient systems purporting to reduce formulation and/or operational costs.

* Gluten-free continues to gather steam, and while many analysts believe it to be a niche trend, the 2010 IFT Show had an abundance of gluten-free products and solutions on hand. Gluten replacers included starches, fibers, hydrocolloids, flours and blends of any and all of these. As with gum Arabic, it is impossible to find something that exactly replaces this protein, notes O’Donnell. However, a number of exhibitors displayed gluten-free applications (particularly in baked goods) where the texture was quite good, courtesy of ingredients that provide structure/texture. One such ingredient gaining prominence was sorghum flour, both for gluten-free and multi-grain applications.

* A variety of proteins were present in gluten-free, non-genetically modified and allergen-free applications, with an almond protein providing a particularly unique option.

* Alternative sweeteners were available in abundance, a result of manufacturers looking for ingredients to cater to weight-conscious consumers, as well as those looking for alternatives to the much-maligned high-fructose corn syrup. Stevia-based sweeteners and chicory root fiber-based ingredients were prevalent, but this segment of the industry is far from mature. Numerous alternatives were rumored to be in the pipeline, so expect a busy few years in the alternative sweetener segment.

* Similarly, any number of fibers were on display, both as a means of calorie-reduction and for satiety benefits. One South Korean supplier, in fact, announced its “first rice bran protein...and first rice bran fiber,” naturally derived ingredients that were hypo-allergenic and non-GMO. Rice bran, the company noted, “contains fewer carbohydrates but provides higher levels of protein and fiber,” compared to standard white rice.  

* Satiety was also a strong selling point for the variety of dairy proteins on display, with one supplier noting the benefit of consuming protein throughout the day, while demonstrating the greater protein content of whey protein consumption in same-calorie meals.

* The international pavilion seemed notably sizable this year, and busy as well, with a number of Chinese suppliers, in particular, providing a large range of commodity ingredients, such as dehydrated vegetables, soy, colorants, fine chemicals and the like.

* Sustainability was a concept well-represented at this year's IFT Show. One Brazilian gelatin supplier was quick to mention its new facility to product bovine gelatin was designed to "maximize the use of clean and renewable energy sources, minimize the company's greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the use of petroleum-based electric power generation." Solar energy generates a "significant" portion of the plants power needs, and the plant also garners energy from diesel engines converted to be fuelled by pork fat, a by-product of the gelatin-production process. As another supplier’s research noted, “60% of respondents believed it important that the manufacturer routinely practices eco-friendly procedures,” and 55% want manufacturers to support local and sustainable agriculture, with 54% preferring the manufacturer to utilize domestic energy sources, such as wind, solar, etc.

More details on the 2010 IFT Show and the exhibitors will be available in the September and October 2010 print issue of Prepared Foods.

From the August 16, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition