This year marks my 25th anniversary as a registered dietitian. And last month was my 24th year since making the plunge from chef, nutrition scientist, diet counselor, and freelance writer to full-time food and nutrition journalist. From the beginning, I’d taken it upon myself to tilt at the windmills of bad nutrition reporting and explode food and nutrition myths. If you read my Viewpoint in June (“Deadly Cheese: Misinformation in the Field of Nutrition”) then you know I’m still at it.
I’ve witnessed some impressive paradigm shifts in how consumers — and product developers — understand and use food and ingredients. The needless demonization of salt, fat, meat, and sugar has moved away from the focus of concern, with most Americans recognizing the idea of moderation and moving away from the guilt that preoccupied everyfood decision.
We know now that Morgan Spurlock and Julia Child both were right. You can’t be healthy on a diet of 100% junk food but neither should you be terrified of butter, cream, cheese, or meat. And processors are increasingly crafting and marketing their products with this understanding.
The three main features this month reflect this multifaceted nature of food and ingredients. Our “Better For You” feature, “New Approaches to Diabetes” looks at the current trends in creating products for the 100+ million people with blood sugar disorders, a problem still at global epidemic levels. Our cover feature, “Chocolate and Vanilla Within” covers the use of those top two indulgent flavors as ingredients in formulations sweet and savory. And “Spirited Creations” shows how culinologists are using beer, wine, and spirits as flavorants in crafting new products.
Speaking of booze, I recently enjoyed a press trip to the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, courtesy of www.hreda.com. Two concerns we visited were the 1927 Cavalier Hotel (stunning!) with incomparable cuisine and its famous Tarnished Truth Distilling Co. Excellent handcrafted bourbon and other spirits. Also, we toured the amusingly named Oozlefinch Brewery. I’ve visited many a brewery. This was the first where every single libation presented (10!) was a home run.
I never knew this beautiful coastal section of Virginia is home to nearly 1,000 food, beverage, and ingredient processors, suppliers, and vendors. But it makes sense: The area is smack on the East Coast, a comparatively short hop from Washington DC, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, yet without the hassles — or expenses — of running an industrial operation in those places. There’s a huge labor force at the ready, too, thanks to the thousands of reliable, well-trained, hardworking navy personnel mustering out yearly.
Our tour of the area (led by the incomparable Jillian Goodwin, a local native and HREDA’s Director of Marketing & Communications) included Smithfield Foods Inc., in Smithfield; Chesapeake Bay Packing Co. seafood, in Newport News; The Neighborhood Harvest hydroponic farms and coffee giant Massimo Zanetti USA, in Suffolk; and the truly impressive Port of Virginia, one of the largest ports in the world and gateway for much of the imported produce and other foods and beverages we enjoy in the US. The port processes 3 million shipping containers per year with Swiss watch precision, trucks cycling in and out in just 50 minutes.
All these experiences tell me that the future of food is bright and that whatever challenges, changes, and shifts the industry faces, we have the attitudes, people, and resources to deal with them.