Every summer, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) hosts its annual conference to bring together passionate people working to innovate within the food industry space. The focal point of the multi-day event is food ingredients, and the exciting opportunities to use them ingredients in new products. This year’s conference was held in Chicago from July 15-18, and featured presentations that explored trends in food business and innovation, along with an exhibition hall that featured food and food ingredient companies of all sizes, from startups to large multinationals. As with previous years, a few key trends stood out, ultimately forecasting what’s to come by way of new products headed to store shelves. Below are the top trends to look forward to this coming year:
- New Technology, Futuristic Solutions: While the food industry has been shifting over the past several years towards products that promote wellness and sustainability, IFT2018 highlighted the first ever IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge, a competition that allows emerging food companies and entrepreneurs to pitch new products or processes leveraging modern technology to enhance the global food supply. The finalists chosen to share their innovations represented a diverse set of breakthrough solutions in the ingredient, packaging and sustainable agriculture space. The people’s choice award for Future Food Disruptor of the Year went to a processor of insect ingredients as a more environmentally-sound alternative to livestock production. The company’s protein concentrate may be used for sports nutrition products and certain beverages, while their textured insect protein may be used as a meat replacement for burgers or nuggets, or as an alternative to eggs or butter. However, the judges’ pick for the competition’s grand prize went to a company transforming an otherwise wasted by-product of soy milk production called okara into a gluten-free flour.
- Focus on Coffee: Beans have left the cup and are headed for the snack aisle. Producers are using new extraction technologies to bring dynamic coffee flavors to a range of products. A wide variety of confections, from cookies to cakes, featured classic coffee house flavors such as ‘latte,’ ‘espresso,’ and ‘cappuccino.’
- Color & Texture: As novelty and variety continues to entice buyers, many brands featured unusual textures and colors in everything from teas to jerky. Products with bright and enticing colors, such as turmeric yellow, abounded and sparkling beverages prevailed. Additionally, new textures such as kelp jerky were featured as consumers seek out “unique textural experiences.”
- Florals: Regardless of the season, botanicals are in spring. Companies are adding fresh, bright and seasonal floral flavors to new products. Blooms such as hibiscus, violet, honeysuckle, rose and elderflower were increasingly popular in the exhibition hall, contributing new color, taste and aroma to packaged foods. However; as this trend is still in its infancy, most of these florals are being paired with other more familiar flavors to ease consumers into the trend.
- Salt Reduction Strategies: Companies specializing on savory items debuted products that work to deliver great taste while reducing the amount of sodium listed on a label. One booth presented new flavor enhancers that offered prominent umami and kokumi notes, allowing products to use less salt but still deliver satisfying, rich flavors. Hydrocolloids such as carrageenan are also being used to help reduce the salt content of foods such as lunch meats.