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Clean Label Remains in the Spotlight

At last year’s IFT trade show, it was clear that clean label was no longer a trend—it was the rule. At the IFT16 Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago, clean label seemed to be the star of the show and it was evident by the number of ingredient companies offering “simple,” “natural,” “safer” and “cleaner” ingredients.

One of the ingredient companies showcasing its clean-label capabilities was Corbion. The theme of the Corbion booth was “Make it with Corbion.” To “Make it Cleaner,” Corbion showcased a variety of products like its ENSEMBLE™ non-PHO emulsifiers, its clean-label product line of dough conditioners, Pristine®, and its natural solutions for uncured meats, Verdad® Avanta™. Corbion invited attendees each day to listen in on a “Tech Talk” where an expert from their team highlighted a different product and capability to help manufacturers make healthier, safer, fresher and tastier food and beverage applications. In addition to its “Tech Talks,” Corbion also sampled a variety of applications—from non-PHO ice cream to sausages in buns. Based on what I sampled at the booth—Corbion was definitely making those applications tastier, too!

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Another ingredient company that featured ingredients around the clean-label “rule” was Land O’Lakes Ingredients. Featured at the Land O’Lakes Ingredients booth was a new dairy seasoning for snack food manufacturers, Thai Chili Ranch, which was a savory blend of rich, flavorful ranch with the tangy sweet taste of Thai chili. To help snack food manufacturers meet the clean-label demand, Thai Chili Ranch is formulated without artificial flavors, PHOs or FD&C colors. In addition to featuring clean-label ingredients, Land O’Lakes Ingredients also hosted a daily presentation at its booth, The Colors We Eat. During the presentation, the Land O’Lakes Ingredients R&D team discussed the challenges facing the dairy powders industry in the move away from artificial colors to more naturally sourced options.

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There were several other companies on the trade show floor using clean label as the theme for their booths:

  • Kerry displayed messaging on its booth stating, “We make products that people enjoy and feel better about” and used a whole wall of its booth to highlight its clean-label capabilities.
  • Without using the term “clean label,” Cargill positioned itself at IFT16 as “Improving nutritional profiles to meet consumer demand.”
  • Another company meeting the clean-label demand without using the term “clean label” was Kalsec—promoting its Natural Spice and Herb Flavor Extracts, Colors and Antioxidants.

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As more ingredient companies offer clean-label solutions to food and beverage manufacturers and consumer demand is being met, it will be interesting to see what the next trend/consumer demand will be that will become a “rule.”

Customer Engagement at IFT16

Food ingredient marketers know what it takes to have a successful trade show exhibit. Strong branding, the right messaging, customer engagement tactics, a well-designed booth space and a knowledgeable team are all essential to make a company’s trade show presence a successful one. And the best gauge of how well all these pieces are working together is by witnessing them “in action” at a trade show; seeing how engaged attendees are with a company’s booth space and team.

At the IFT16 Expo in Chicago, I walked the floor and observed the world’s top food ingredient companies and their trade show teams in action. I saw how industry trends are affecting the design of the booths and their graphics, as companies strive to show how their products align with the demands of a new generation of consumers. I also saw some very effective strategies to help exhibitors increase engagement with customers and attendees.

White Space, Bright Colors
The combination of vibrant colors and simple imagery on clean, white backgrounds was something I saw everywhere. This graphic style was clearly influenced by the clean-label movement as companies continue to move toward simpler and better-for-you ingredients. It gave many of the booth designs a clean, modern look and was the perfect graphic solution to convey the purity and transparency consumers are seeking. These shots show just how much this look permeated through many of the designs this year.

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Natural Colors
Likewise, the ongoing movement toward more natural color sources had an impact on the messaging and tactics of several of the booths this year. Land O’Lakes Ingredients sampled cheese powders made without FD&C colors and featured a daily presentation about the history of coloring foods. I also saw several color houses creatively communicating the natural sources of their products through their messaging and graphics. GNT and DDW both had great examples of this with creative expressions that made me take a second look.

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Open Spaces
The last few years, there’s been a substantial move toward more open trade show spaces and floor plans, with companies utilizing all sides of their area for customer engagement. Without “big walls” blocking off entire sides of a booth, a trade show team can have its people on all sides to initiate customer engagement or offer product samples. Corbion did a great job of this with an open floor plan that clearly defined their area and allowed attendees to easily scan across it to absorb everything that was going on. Its team was positioned throughout the space to engage with customers from all sides, and it generated a lot of attention.

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Going Outside the Box for Engagement
Something that made an impression on me was how aggressively some companies went to initiate customer engagement. Kerry and Mintel were among the exhibitors that not only had several team members working within their booths, but also had additional members stationed in the aisles nearby to approach curious attendees and make the first move. It was an effective way of removing those invisible boundaries that always seem to separate the attendees from the exhibitors and help start the conversation with customers.

Hats off to IFT for another impressive expo and to all the volunteers who, year after year, make this event so successful and so beneficial to professionals and students throughout the food ingredient industry.

What kind of overall impressions did you get from IFT16?

SNAXPO 2016: Cleaner-label Solutions for Snack Food Manufacturers

SNAXPO 2016 brought 1,500 attendees from around the world to Houston, Tex. on March 19-22 for the annual snack food industry trade show. This year’s conference provided snack food manufacturers the opportunity to explore new and innovative equipment, ingredients, products and services to help them keep up with the consumer trends in the snack market.

In his State of Snacking presentation, Jared Koerten from Euromonitor pointed out that snacking continues to outpace traditional meals in the marketplace as consumers are looking for convenient, on-the-go options that best fit their busy lifestyles. Koerten also mentioned that Euromonitor expects to see continued growth, specifically for savory snacks in the U.S. market.

With the continued growth in snacks, the trade show floor provided a great opportunity for snack food manufacturers to explore new flavors and innovations being offered to help them meet the demands of consumers. The team at McCormick Custom Flavor Solutions presented the 2016 McCormick Flavor Forecast in an education session during the show to highlight on trend flavors, which included flavors that are influenced by Malaysian and Philippine cuisine—specifically ones with heat and tang. In addition, McCormick stated that nutrition persists in the Flavor Forecast in the form of two trends—blends with benefits and alternative pulse proteins.

In addition to the presentations and education sessions, there were a variety of exhibitors that Land O'Lakes Ingredients - Booth Front 3showcased ingredients to meet the demands of consumers—specifically around cleaner labels. Land O’Lakes Ingredients’ team of experts gave a presentation at their booth, The Colors We Eat, which described how FD&C colors have evolved over time and where we are in today’s environment with the consumer demand for natural colors in the foods they eat. In addition to their presentation, Land O’Lakes Ingredients had a taste challenge and invited attendees to sample cheese puffs. One was made with cheese powder that had been formulated with FD&C colors and the other contained a cheese powder made with no FD&C colors. During the challenge, Land O’Lakes Ingredients captured attendee feedback and the results were surprising—attendees had a hard time telling the difference between the two products and actually preferred the taste of the cheese puff formulated without the use of FD&C colors.

Across the trade show floor, DairiConcepts also presented cleaner-label snack seasonings that included product offerings for organic, rBST-Free, non-GMO, gluten-free, reduced sodium and natural colors and flavors. Georgia Pecans showcased how pecans can be used beyond the pie in snack foods as a gluten-free, protein-rich option with their samples of pecan grahams, pecan meat-substitute spring rolls and pecan-coated chicken—which I must say, were all delicious!

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Overall, SNAXPO 2016 was a great show. It will be interesting to see what next year’s SNAXPO in Georgia will bring—what new trends will be uncovered and what new and exciting innovations and flavors will be available for snack food manufacturers. Who knows, maybe the Fuch’s blimp that stirred up the trade show floor last year will make an appearance again in 2017. Feel free to comment below on what innovations, trends or flavors caught your attention at this year’s SNAXPO and what you’d like to see at next year’s show.

Clean Label No Longer Trending—It’s the Rule

At the IFT15 Expo in Chicago, Innova Market Insights said it best, clean label is no longer a trend—it’s the rule. As stated in our “The Simple Trend in Food Ingredients” blog post, 62% of consumers seek foods that are minimally processed and 53% prefer foods and beverages that contain a short list of ingredients. With a high consumer demand for cleaner labels, the food industry is left to respond with product reformulations, new product developments and new communication strategies to keep up with the marketplace.

From natural and organic to no artificial additives and no partially hydrogenated oils, food ingredient companies on the IFT15 expo floor were marketing solutions to help food manufacturers “follow the rule” and clean up the labels on its products. Companies like Naturex and Kalsec used simple statements on their booths—“From Nature to You” and “Cleaner Labels. Clear.”—to grab the attention of and engage food manufacturers who were in attendance at the show.

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Land O’Lakes Ingredients was another company that showcased how its ingredients provided a solution and opportunity for product developers to clean up their labels. At IFT15, Land O’Lakes Ingredients launched a new cheese powder, 3-Pepper CheddarChromaTM. At the booth, Land O’Lakes Ingredients used a display card next to the application sample to highlight how 3-Pepper CheddarChroma cheese powder contains no artificial flavoring, no FD&C colors and no added MSG—giving snack food manufacturers a quick snapshot of how Land O’Lakes Ingredients can help them clean up the labels on new product developments and reformulations.

With a consumer demand that shows no signs of going away, the food industry will have to continue to work together to overcome the challenges, and evolve and adapt to the rule—because let’s be honest—being a “rule breaker” in this industry won’t always lead to success in the marketplace.

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