Grinding it Out at IFT

Delivering the keynote address at The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) annual trade show last week in Las Vegas, Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz related how Starbucks endured and eventually mitigated the effects of its recent troubles. Having taken an 8-year hiatus from the company he founded, Schultz returned to Starbucks in 2008 to help lead it through the economic downturn which had hit the hitherto rapidly expanding chain particularly hard.

According to Schultz, the company survived this stretch by keeping true to the values and principles upon which it had been founded. Expanding on the message, Schultz explained that companies can prevail and even succeed amidst the still-difficult economic conditions by doing as Starbucks did, operating with transparency and authentically.

Refreshingly, the attendees and exhibitors at this year’s IFT were as authentic and transparent as ever. Green technologies, although more typically associated with packaging suppliers, are also an important driving force in the ingredient supply industry.

One such exemplar of green ingredient sourcing is Blue Marble Biomaterials which produces natural flavors and fragrances using waste materials such as spent coffee grounds, beer mash, and forestry products. The company spins the straw of these waste products into ingredient gold using proprietary polyculture fermentation technology, AGATE, short for Acid, Gas, and Ammonia Targeted Extraction. This technology employs various kinds of bacteria in a production chain to breakdown the plant material and, in doing so, create extracts and oils such as lavender, cinnamon, pine, and roasted coffee.

Natural sweeteners continue to make waves in the supply industry. Some of the momentum maintained by stevia in recent years has transferred to luo han guo or monk fruit, the only other high-intensity, naturally-derived sweetener. Tate & Lyle, which markets its monk fruit-based sweetener, PureFruit, to beverage companies, was handing out samples of a soon-to-launched table top version. Sold in packets under the Nectresse brand name, it will be marketed by McNeil Nutritionals per an arrangement similar to that which is currently in place between the companies for the marketing of table top Splenda. Though the Nectresse brand will not be found on beverage labels, the launch of the table top monk fruit sweetener is a clear sign that the companies behind it feel monk fruit is ready for the mainstream.

Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the event is the largest gathering of supplier and food scientists in the country with over 1,000 exhibitors showcasing their flavors, ingredients and processing technologies. To see more of the exhibitors and people we met at IFT, please visit our photo gallery.

IFT photo gallery