“People and companies are supercharged to bring consumers new foods that have great taste and solid nutrition while sourcing and supporting sustainability where they can.” said our Chief Commercial Officer, Eric Hamborg, after participating at IFT FIRST 2023, in Chicago.
The event’s theme, “Innovation in a Time of Crisis: Can We Future-Proof the Food System?” resonated with attendees who sought to explore novel ways to address challenges and embrace groundbreaking solutions.
Upcycling Food: Reshaping Sustainability
One of the key themes that echoed throughout IFT FIRST 2023 was the concept of upcycling food. The Upcycled Food Association’s “Upcycled Certified” took center stage as attendees learned about the remarkable growth of this ESG-related movement. With sales of Upcycled Certified products surging by over 21% between 2021 and 2022, according to SPINS, it’s evident that consumers are embracing the idea of utilizing surplus ingredients and byproducts to create new, nutritious, and sustainable food offerings. This approach not only reduces waste but also contributes to building resilient global food systems.
Regenerative Agriculture: Nurturing the Earth and the Palate
The imperative of regenerative agriculture to combat climate change and ensure a secure food supply was another focal point at the event. The “Building the Business Case for Regenerative Agriculture” session underscored the urgency of adopting regenerative practices. Companies like Unilever, pledging to make its Hellmann’s mayonnaise brand 100% regenerative, exemplify the commitment to sustainability. Ardent Mills also shone a spotlight on its Regenerative Agriculture Program and showcased innovative products like Egg Replace and Ancient Grains Plus Baking Flour Blend. These efforts showcase how businesses are driving change through their commitment to nurturing both soil health and the planet.
Mushrooms: Unveiling Nature’s Versatility
IFT FIRST 2023 celebrated the versatility of mushrooms, as companies unveiled a plethora of applications spanning from meat alternatives to food preservatives. From energy bars to ready-to-drink teas, mushrooms proved to be the star ingredient. For instance, unClassic demonstrated oyster mushrooms with an impressive four times more protein than the average. This spotlight on mushrooms not only showcased their culinary flexibility but also their potential to contribute to a sustainable food ecosystem.
Harnessing Innovation: Insights from Business FIRST Panel
The event’s Business FIRST panel delved into food product development. Attendees engaged in discussions around building innovative capabilities through internal efforts versus via mergers and acquisitions. The role of artificial intelligence in refining product development by deciphering consumer behavior data was another topic sparking interest. As highlighted by industry experts, investing in training for product development researchers is crucial to harnessing the power of innovation effectively.
The event served as an incubator of ideas, where the energy of innovation pulsated through the air. As Eric Hamborg, our Chief Commercial Officer, stated,
“The energy and atmosphere around innovation and new foods at IFT FIRST 2023 was absolutely electric! – the show had a distinct buzz.”
The event’s highlights, from upcycled food to regenerative agriculture and the marvel of mushrooms, showcased a shared commitment to reshaping the food industry. By embracing sustainability, technological advancement, and culinary creativity, attendees affirmed their dedication to transforming the food landscape into one that is flavorful, nutritious, and environmentally responsible. IFT FIRST 2023 illuminated a path toward a future where innovation and sustainability intertwine, leaving a lasting impact on the way we nourish ourselves and our planet.