The Research Chefs Association’s (RCA) 2015 Annual Conference and Culinology Expo in New Orleans was once again the year’s best event for many of the leading product innovators in the food industry. From March 24-27, top celebrity chefs, research and development chefs, and culinologists from leading food manufacturers gathered for four days of unparalled food and fun as only New Orleans can provide.
The conference got off to a great start with the opening reception at Generations Hall in the Warehouse District. The event was sponsored by Ardent Mills, Red Arrow and Symrise. Ardent Mills brought in a live New Orleans jazz band along with their ever popular Mobile Innovation Center (MIC). The MIC shut down the street in front of Generations Hall and served a variety of new food samples including Sweet & Savory Grits, Bayou Dirty Rice and Peach Cobbler made with Ultragrain® white whole wheat flour. Attendees raved about the food as they rocked out to the rhythms of the jazz band.
The theme of new product innovation continued throughout the conference. In the opening keynote address, New Orleans celebrity Chef John Besh talked about the important role that innovating new dishes from traditional southern cuisines has played in keeping his restaurants popular leaders in the region. He also spoke about the work his Besh Foundation is doing with the local “Chefs Move” program.
Many of the seminars and breakout sessions also featured presentations on new product innovation for the chefs and product developers at the conference. One of the best attended sessions was titled, “From Unarticulated Consumer Needs to Products that Rock” and was presented by Mark Crowell from Culinex and Michelle Berry from Centric Brand Anthropology. The session focused on the need to align new products with a consistent brand experience and brand positioning that connects with consumers in an authentic way.
Overall, this year’s conference was one of the RCA’s best in several years. The focus on new product innovation and the roles played by research chefs and culinologists will continue to be a major trend in the food ingredient industry for many years to come.