IFT19: Innovation, Product Development, Emerging Start-ups, Ingredients

In the true spirit of New Orleans and Mardi Gras, the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Event and Food Expo (IFT19) delivered a global, action-packed, non-stop four-day event for food scientists. To be clear, there weren’t free-flowing drinks (except at some supplier-sponsored events). Rather, IFT19 filled attendees’ minds with innovation, new product development, emerging start-ups and tasting and ingredient options. If you couldn’t attend – no worries. Our advisory team was there taking in vast amounts of leading-edge science and having detailed conversations with industry experts.

We’ve distilled here the four key themes we see expanding in 2019 and beyond.

Innovation Advisors at IFT

Food Upcycling and Ingredients with a Story

From the IFTNEXT stage and Start-Up Alley many early-stage companies are poised to monetize food waste streams by creating a highly efficient, new circular economy that reduces food waste and provides nutrition and taste to conscious consumers. Food waste is a $1.2 trillion-dollar opportunity with most coming from byproducts of food harvest and manufacturing. Emerging businesses like Renewal Mill, FreshSurety, and Comet Bio (2019 Innovation Award Winner) have developed strategies focused on upcycling food waste to create new value products including sweetener and syrup blends, high protein and low carb flours, oils and other nutritional ingredients with unique functional attributes.

All Things Artificial Intelligence

Everywhere you look someone’s posting, talking or speculating about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning on R&D, product development and business operations. IFT19 was no different, except for a community that’s historically been relatively slow to adapt to technology innovations, food scientists from academia to Fortune 100 companies were touting their learnings and use-cases for AI. A message that resonated across all IFT presentations was that the future of innovation is deeply rooted in AI and machine learning. Specifically, AI and closely associated techniques are being deployed to discover unmet consumer needs, define problems and brainstorm solutions, define value propositions and business models, get customer feedback, and create novel products. However, there’s a catch. Most companies don’t fully appreciate the key enablers of AI. Those enablers include the necessary infrastructure, variety and velocity of data, and above all else the right people and culture to support AI. We couldn’t agree more. Our advisory group has identified this need and is helping companies work through these enablers.

Hemp, CBD, Cannabis

CBD, CBD, CBD! The cannabis and CBD space is hot and shows no signs of cooling. Approximately Our booth at IFT80% of my conversations at IFT19 were around the science and truth of CBD claims. I enjoyed the interest that start-ups, leading ingredient companies, and large brand owners have in understanding the science and innovation space around cannabis, especially given my background in the pharmacology of cannabinoids. Now back to the sessions. There were several dedicated to consumer perception, product trends and development of standardized testing methodologies. That’s good news because as standard testing practices become available, companies can expect harmonization across state and country lines. And with that harmonization, the true cannabis opportunity will show itself. The number of cannabis sessions at IFT19 signifies IFT’s commitment to global food safety, and their acknowledgment of this rapidly growing food scientific discipline.

Gut Microbiome

Among this year’s highlights were a full day of sessions dedicated to exploring one of the most fascinating areas of current research: the gut microbiome and its relationship to nutrition and health. Dr. Darrell Cockburn of Penn State provided a packed room with a science-based review of the gut microbiome and scientists’ growing understanding of its link to well-being and health. Although the term “Personalization Nutrition” was not explicitly discussed, all roads from IFT19 lead to food and ingredient companies seeking to better understand how they can develop and deliver novel products that enable personalized nutrition. IFT19 highlighted the importance of diet choices including fermentable fibers and pre and probiotics.  For ingredient and food manufacturers the takeaway is to understand the mechanism of action of your ingredients and products on the gut microbiome, as this will enable structure-function claims and product differentiation in a crowded marketplace. Innovation is demonstrating viability of delivery, activity, and colonization of probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract.

These key themes – artificial intelligence, CBD and cannabis, upcycling the food waste stream and deeper understanding the gut microbiome – will influence food innovation in the next few years.  We’ll provide our take on each of these key themes in more detail over the next few months.

In the meantime, contact us if you have questions about these topics or any others as you continue to innovate in food.

Blog post category:

About the authors

Lawrence Blume, Ph.D. is passionate about collaborative partnerships that bring innovative solutions to challenging research and development roadblocks. A lead advisor for our food science and biotechnology innovation, Lawrence brings extensive experience leading technology-focused opportunity forecasts in support of competitive advantage, product differentiation, and commercialization strategies for C-level executives at companies ranging from early startups to Fortune 500s. Over the last decade, Dr. Blume has applied his background in cannabis physiology and pharmacology towards novel commercial applications in the medical, CPG, and food and beverage spaces. He received a Ph.D. in Physiology & Pharmacology from Wake Forest School of Medicine and a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Biochemistry from Duquesne University.
Susan Mayer is our technical food industry leader, with great problem-solving, strategic, and communication skills. Our clients rely on her experience in product development, product lifecycle management, and public-private food industry partnerships to understand how technology, research, and the right suppliers can create innovation opportunities. How does her work with us benefit food companies? Susan believes that our human-centered design perspective makes all the difference. ‘Product developers always believe they are thinking about the consumer, but our human-centered design approach to considering technology brings an entirely different perspective.’ Susan applies her love of food science to her hobbies; she and her husband formulate and brew beer, much to the delight of their friends and neighbors. Susan has an M.S. in Food Science and a B.S. in Foods from the University of Maryland, College Park, and is a Certified Food Scientist.

Interested in innovation?

Subscribe to our newsletter.