In my rebellious youth, one of the big symbols of the counterculture movement was Abbie Hoffman’s 1971 manifesto, “Steal This Book.” In many ways, the title was the best part. Inside, the guide for waging protest against the military-industrial complex was both heavy on the impractical and rapidly obsolete. Just two years later, Hoffman’s partner in protest Jerry Rubin became a stockbroker and capitalist “prodigal son.” (Both men also were famous for exhorting youth to “never trust anyone over 30” while already well past that landmark themselves.)

This is a long way of pointing out that most big corporations are quite different now from in the 1960s. Many of today’s “multimegacorps” are acting with a level of responsibility and community involvement that belies the image of corporate America a generation ago. It’s now fair to say one of the most important ingredients in food manufacturing is social responsibility.

The “we’re in this together” ethos in many big ingredient and manufacturing companies was on display at the 2015 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) annual show last July. One of the best examples of sincere corporate interest in social responsibility took place at the IFT CEO Panel, “Is Big Food Bad Food?,” featuring CEOs Alan Wilson (McCormick & Co.), David Cotton (Flying Food Group Inc.) and James Borel, executive vice president of DuPont Pioneer.

Borel, representing not only the largest company of the three but one of the biggest corporations in the world, contributed a truly impressive level of informed insight into consumer concerns and confusions. Demonstrating his roots as a farm and field guy who rose to the top by being the hardest working man in the room, his comments on the delicate balance between science and environment, business and consumer needs/wants was centered on the communication that bridges it all. He stressed how companies must take active part in that communication stream, and do so with clarity and honesty. Borel truly “gets it.”

Meanwhile, at bench level, other big ingredient companies demonstrated amazing synergy with food manufacturers and consumers. So much so, it got me wondering why, traditionally, manufacturers are slow to bite at some of the really inspiring—and advanced—food and beverage ideas presented albeit as demonstrations, at these ingredient shows.

Suppliers like Sensient Flavors have consistently presented some of the coolest and most cutting-edge flavor showcases for their ingredients. I’ve already covered Roquette Inc.’s stunning, spot-on brioches made from microalgae and Penford Corp./Gum Technology’s flawless eggless meringues from potato starch. Other great ingredient suppliers have been demonstrating their wares via something other than bevs and bars to show manufacturers how novel ingredients are underpinning the future of food.

At this year’s IFT, PLT Health knocked it out of the park with its Vibrant Harvest whole food powders in mini-cupcakes custom-crafted by Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique, Chicago. The decadent, rich and moist chocolate cake part had a full serving of undetectable spinach, plus a half serving of fruit (grape, strawberry, raspberry or lime) hid in the frosting, finished with a dot of sweet pea or carrot on top as garnish. Other ingredient companies displayed equally impressive samples.

Suppliers don’t want to be product manufacturers, too. Yet some are feeling forced into it: So manufacturers, as you cover the expo floor of your next show—Supply Side West is going on as this issue hits the mailboxes—please note: Some of the samples you’re enjoying aren’t just platforms to showcase an ingredient, they’re ideas for the having, if you’re willing. In your hands, they could become the next big product trend.