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Joining the Conversation—Telling the Food Science Story

For many years now, the food science community has struggled with how to tell the food science story in the age of increasingly skeptical consumers. With the growth of pseudoscience “experts” and opinion-driven advocates like the Food Babe, food scientists have often felt bewildered about how to bring a rational, science-based voice to the conversation. Even worse, they often feel left out of the conversation entirely and without the tools or skills that they need to join the conversation with the informed view that sound food science can offer.

The struggle to tell the food science story has been an ongoing theme throughout the food industry and a major topic of conversation among food trade associations, as well as at national and international food conferences. But at this year’s annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago, the conversation took a major step forward as several keynote speakers and featured panel discussion sessions took the topic head-on and started to offer food scientists the strategies and the tactics they need to start using their storytelling skills to effectively deliver the food science message.

During the IFT Leadership Summit, one of the featured speakers was Trevor Butterworth, a co-founder of the non-profit, non-partisan Sense about Science organization. His presentation on “Effective Science Communication” provided practical tips and real-world examples of how food scientists can effectively engage with the mainstream media to tell their story. He emphasized transparency, authenticity and presenting science in simple, easy to understand stories. He also urged spokespeople to “know your audience” and engage with them in conversations instead of attacking them for their lack of scientific literacy. The Sense about Science group has even published “A Media Guide for Scientists” with practical advice on dealing with journalists before, during and after a media interview.

A featured panel discussion during the IFT16 scientific sessions focused on “Food Trends vs. Food Fads.” The IFT_07558_InsideImageindustry experts on the panel all agreed that the food-science community needs to do a better job of presenting the food-science story to consumers. The panel discussed the explosive growth in social media and the need for food scientists to participate in the “two-way conversation” regarding processed food and functional ingredients necessary in delivering a safe, nutritious and abundant food supply, especially in the area of clean labels and simple ingredients. Food Business News reported on the panel in a feature story on “The complicated reality of simple ingredients.”

Also at IFT16, a keynote address from Bev Postma, an international food policy specialist, drew a standing room only crowd.  Titled “Taming Dragons in the Age of Pseudoscience,” Ms. Postma’s presentation focused on how to engage the pseudoscientists and the opinion-driven advocates in meaningful conversations to help tell the food-science story. She offered several direct ideas to food scientists to help build an emotional connection during those conversations including:
1.    Enter every conversation assuming there is something to learn.
2.    Express empathy and genuinely seek to understand the other side’s positions.
3.    Listen with the intent of building mutual understanding.

As Ms. Postma pointed out, once an emotional connection is made, scientists can steer the conversation to the many ways that science and technology can benefit consumers and their food supply.

By far the most important new development at IFT16 was the increased willingness of the food-science community to join in the ongoing conversation and become more proactive in telling the food-science story. Expect to see more activity and media coverage as more food scientists and their spokespeople get involved in talking about all of the important and necessary benefits that food science brings to our rapidly growing world.

An Active Voice in Food Ingredients

The Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo is quickly approaching and this year’s event looks to provide a lot of opportunity for those in attendance as more than 1,000 exhibitors and 23,000 professionals from all over the world gather in Chicago. One of the largest food ingredient trade shows of the year, IFT gathers the most prominent names in the industry in one place and offers more than 100 breakout sessions that address and discuss the challenges impacting today’s ever-changing environment.

In the video below, Anderson Partners Food Ingredient Marketing president, Mark Hughes, discusses our involvement in trade associations like IFT, how our involvement keeps us informed of everything affecting the food ingredient industry and how that knowledge impacts the work we deliver to our clients.


Attending IFT this year and want to learn how we can help your company’s marketing communication goals? Click here to schedule a meeting with our team at the show.

2015 Flavor Trends Roundup

According to the Innovation on the Menu: Flavor Trends report published by market research firm, Mintel, 62% of millennials and 56% of U.S. adults identify as adventurous eaters, with 82% of consumers stating they were willing to try new flavors. This interest in the bold and unexpected permeates a variety of 2015 flavor-trend predictions with forecasts focusing on pungent flavors that provide a strong taste for consumers. An assortment of spicy Middle Eastern and Asian flavors can be seen throughout, along with an increasing focus on sour, smoky and bitter notes.

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The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) backs its Top 5 2015 Flavor Trends predictions with extensive data from a variety of sources and provides “drivers” behind each trend. Sweet + Heat is chosen from consumers’ love of spicy flavors and a growing interest in heat mixed with sweet ingredients—think chili peppers with berries and citrus fruits. IFT notes that manufacturers are already pursuing this trend with Kalsec introducing Tangy Sweet Ginger, Spicy Orange, Herbal Jalapeño and Sweet-Roasted Chipotle at the 2014 IFT Food Expo. IFT includes spice’s ability to play to consumers’ view of a product’s authenticity, as well as studies showing that spice might have a positive effect on the metabolism as drivers of this trend. IFT predicts sour, bitter and tangy flavors with a focus on fermented foods will also be big in 2015, noting kimchi as a strong influence on consumers growing interest in fermented products. Like Sweet + Heat, IFT includes “authenticity and health and wellness” as a driver of this trend. IFT rounds out its forecast with umami, smoke and oak, and Middle Eastern and North African flavors.

Last year, The McCormick® Flavor Forecast®  predicted chilies, Indian, Mexican and Brazilian flavors would satisfy consumer cravings for heat in 2014 and it seems in 2015, consumers will still crave heat but now from regions like the Middle East and Asia. Like IFT, McCormick’s trend categories included umami, smoke and all around spicy ethnic flavors.  Consumers looking for tang will turn to products that feature Sour + Salt. Those craving umami will turn to vegetables that include the “fifth taste”—mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and nori. Smoked spices will provide depth to drinks and condiments, while fruit and vegetable juices and purees mixed with herbs and spices will add flavor to soup and sauce applications. On the dessert front, cookies will get a sophisticated makeover flavoring brûlées, tarts and bars.

Comax Flavors picked four flavor category trends for its Flavor Trends for 2015 press release: Melting Pot, In a Nutshell, Coffee House and Breakfast Anytime. With Melting Pot, you’ll find flavors with Hispanic and Asian influences. In a Nutshell focuses on nuts bringing new flavor to sweet applications like bourbon caramel pistachio and savory applications like pecan chipotle. Coffee House focuses on consumers increased demand for coffee and the opportunity for coffee mixed with unexpected flavors. For example, Comax Flavors developed cofftea and cabernet espresso to celebrate National Coffee Day in 2014.

Firmenich, an international producer of flavor solutions, reports that honey will be the flavor of 2015. In an article from BakeMag.com, Patrick Salord, senior flavorist at Firmenich, stated, “For a flavor that is as sweet as honey is, it shows remarkable versatility. Depending on the application, you can tone down the sweetness or even tone it up! It’s a flavor that has no limit in its potential, and people respond to that.” While honey has been growing in popularity in recent years, it will be especially popular in 2015 as a vessel for the bolder spicier flavors forecasted.

As we continue to read about and share with you more predictions for 2015 food industry trends, feel free to leave us a comment with your thoughts on what trends you think the food industry will see in 2015.

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