AIMG_6886nother IFT has come and gone – as I get older my show navigation skills have improved! I noticed this year that all the long timer booths (like David Michael, Kerry and Tate & Lyle) were located in the same spots on the McCormick floor as last year. I also am really good at finding the best freebie giveaways like the illuminated egg from Okaloosa, the beautiful green t-shirt from the honey board and flashing bracelets from Qualisoy. I should also mention that Qualisoy had a talented artist mold a head out of shortening. Not everyone may have caught this because it was way in the 4000’s aisle!

The real ongoing theme of IFT this year however was every food scientist’s favorite (and least favorite) topic—Clean Label! As a consultant who develops food products for both entrepreneurs and large companies I get frustrated when I am forbidden from using top notch functional ingredients because my client does not understand what it means, and replace it with something that kinda works, but maybe not as well- but comes with a word that is known to mere mortals (aka non-food scientists). Luckily I have ingredient trade shows like IFT and Supply Side West that give me the opportunity to explore and interact with the latest and greatest clean label functional ingredients that I can then introduce to my mortal clients who understand what the word means, and in turn put it on the “ok to use” list.

Ingredient trade shows like IFT and Supply Side link me up with the best clean label alternatives out there! For example—every time I make a dry powder mix (protein shakes, fruit powder sport drinks, pancake mix, cake mix) I need anti caking agents. The most popular anti caking agent is Silicone Dioxide. The scientists of the world know that Silicone comes from quartz and oxygen comes from – the earth. It’s as natural as can be, but to the uninformed mortals they are just eating “chemicals”. Well in come Ribose, a leading organic natural clean label rice based alternative. Their Nu-Flow anti caking agent can be used to replace SiO2 or the even dirtier “Tri-calcium Phosphate” (oh no, not CALCIUM!) with simple “rice concentrate”! Boom! Done! Everyone is happy! I feel safe in knowing my dry blend won’t clump and my clients can breath a sign of relief that no nasty chemicals that will offend their clients will be on their ingredient statement. It’s a win win situation.

Phosphates are very common in the cured meat in industry, used to retain moisture, maintain flavor. They increase the water holding capacity of meat by forcing proteins apart, allowing water to move in between the protein molecules. Most people don’t really know what this word means or how it functions—they don’t want to see it on the label. Luckily I found Prosur’s “PRS PHR”, an innovative clean label solution made out of yeast extracts (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Pichia Jadinii) and citrus extracts. They have a synergistic effect on the solubilisation capacity of actomyosine, which boosts the water retention of meat in a more natural way. In layman’s terms—this works like a phosphate and translates to an ingredient statement that says: Yeast Extract, Citrus Extract. Yeast and citrus are clean, phosphates to the consumer are not.

TIC Gums is a true leader when it comes to clean label ingredients. Why? First of all, gums were never really un clean to begin with and many have been used for hundreds of years and everyone knows that if our grandmother used it then it must be clean since most people don’t have food science grandmothers. TIC has a great “clean label hydrocolloid” chart that they passed out, reminding food scientists like me that High Methoxyl Pectin can simply be called “Pectin” and Locust Bean Gum can be called “Carob Gum” and the hippies in the 60’s ate Carob instead of chocolate so it must be clean. High Acyl Gellen Gum can be called just “Gellen” gum. Some gums are organic, which translates scary sounding “inulin” to “organic agave or chicory”. Lots of confusion out there in gum world-TIC is there to help us legally relay the truth to the consumer. Unfortunately for ingredients like sodium alginate (AKA Seaweed!) there is no clean label- it is up to the manufacturer to educate their consumer that it is seaweed, organic compliant, non-GMO compliant and on the published whole foods compliance list.

All these companies and more will be exhibiting their functional and clean label alternative solutions to the food scientists that will be attending Supply Side West. I started checking out Supply side several years ago and wasn’t quite sure if it was just herbs, supplements or an up and coming IFT type show. Every year more and more ingredient companies are exhibiting at Supply Side and the show is almost beginning to outgrow the smaller expo exhibit hall in Vegas at Mandalay Bay. In the past I didn’t go to Supply Side very often as I felt it was very supplement and vitamin oriented, but now it’s one of my regular trade shows that I attend. I love that it is in Vegas too—lots of affordable hotels, great restaurants and nighttime entertainment.

This year at IFT there was an eye opening consumer panel called “A Clean Label Revolution”. Random consumers not from the food industry were actually on the stage and sharing their thoughts and feelings about ingredient statements and what they would and would not use. The message was clear—if consumers don’t know what it means or if there is unexplained fear monger attention surrounding it (like carrageenan or GMO’s) then they don’t want to buy it!
Clean label is no longer just a thing for the Whole Foods and artisan crowd- it’s becoming an everyone thing and the food industry needs to start doing a better job of educating the masses on what sodium chloride is and the differences between high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, or come up with some brand new functional alternatives that have names our grandmother could have lived with. This is what happens when the food industry pretends like our food was made by Friendly Green Giants and Keebler Elves for the last 100 years- and consumers find out that it was actually made in stainless steel tanks in a factory by scientists and engineers. Yes, consumers now know the truth, that food is made in a scientific and methodical way in clean sanitary plants by people that wear hairnets and practice GMP’s. Time to educate, inform and fix it so we can continue to take advantage of past and future food science contributions to the functional ingredient world.

Oh, unrelated to the clean label trend –a few other cool things I saw at IFT this year was a new competitor to Genesis, a less expensive spreadsheet software program for nutritional analysis called Formulator. An edible vitamin cup from DSM and Loliware. Edible food wrap film from Monosol – a transparent, odorless and tasteless film that is biodegradable, dissolves in water reduces environmental waste. There was freeze dried high antioxidant purple corn from Suntava which was used to make energy bars that I ate for breakfast during the show. In the equipment world it’s all about recording results with the blue tooth pH meter from Hanna instruments. This is on my food science consultant wish list along with a not yet on the market but they showed it at Expo anyway—a unit that measures salt, acid, pH and brix all on the same unit from Atago. Can’t wait for this to come out, a must have for any laboratory!

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Years ago the only companies that made food products were large corporations that had teams of industry professionals in marketing, food science, microbiology, food safety and packaging. They made sure that the products they created tasted great, looked beautiful and most importantly were “safe” for consumption and made under strict USDA and/or FDA guidelines.

In recent times, many of the new food products emerging on the market are not made by big food companies, but by people that are from non-food science backgrounds like finance, fitness or medicine. They are created by people who have stories to tell about how the concept that they created in their personal home kitchen saved the lives of their kids who had, before that, been forced to eat products that contained GASP* sugar that came from beets and not from cane—oh the horrors of it all! Or they are created by the fitness professional who learned that his chocolate cake made from chicken protein isolate is the answer to losing fat and gaining muscle (hey that’s a pretty good idea right there!)

These saavy entrepreneurs with no experience in food science, food safety or microbiology often come to the conclusion that they can do it all on their own and they don’t need the expertise of those who have dedicated their lives to studying food safety and science. They furiously develop recipes in their home kitchen using non-scientific measurements like tablespoons and cups to measure out their recipe. They use ingredients that they picked up from whole foods like trail mix and flavored protein powders. They don’t take into account water activity, rancidity issues or potential staling. Packaging options are not even considered. Of course it’s not all their fault that they assume it’s easy to bring food products to market- after all, when was the last time you saw a documentary on food science or product commercialization? Probably never! The food industry is notoriously secretive on how it’s all done , they don’t want to scare the masses by elaborating on unpleasant sounding topics like preservatives, HACCP plans and third party microbiology testing. The only vaguely real life examples we see are cute short videos on the food network show “Unwrapped” which makes food manufacturing look like a Willie Wonka chocolate factory.

So back to our do it yourself entrepreneurs, who after they have concocted their amazing idea (in cups and tablespoons!) they call a co-packing facility and wonder why they don’t get a response or why co-packers are so impossible to get a hold of, or why no co-packers are jumping at the chance to test out their product and help them get it on the market. After all, this is the opportunity of all opportunities!

I have said this before—and written it many times but the madness continues. There is a reason why the co-packers won’t call you, the entrepreneur, back and that’s because they don’t want to deal with the entrepreneurs naïve understanding of the food industry. They don’t want to hold the entrepreneurs hand and explain the meaning of third party micro testing, and they don’t want to spend hours breaking down their costs, knowing they probably won’t be able to afford the minimums anyway. Co-packers get hundreds of calls a month and they can smell the novice from miles away.

So what is an entrepreneur to do in this day and age? My advice is to not try to do this alone! The second you have an idea on how to bring a product to market the first call should not be to your lawyer, web designer, or graphic design expert but to your food scientist! It doesn’t even have to be “your” food scientist, just go to the IFT.org website and find a local food scientist from their reach out program who can give you some advice, or attend a local IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) regional meeting and network with the experts. The IFT is an amazing information resource. They have free regional local ingredient trade shows, online links to information and more.

If you are an entrepreneur who wants to bring a new product to market, make sure you do your initial homework. Read up on food science and the food industry. Make sure you have funding and that you understand the safety and regulations surrounding the type of product you want to make. If you don’t understand then hire a guide or consultant that can help you get started. Sometimes there is a reason why your concept is not on the market, and it’s not because no one thought of it already! It may not be something that can be made safely, or it might be too expensive, or the ingredient you want to use (bee nectar from the rain forest) may not be readily available.

Everyone knows what a plumber does, what a lawyer does, what an architect does and we seek out those experts when their services are needed, because we know that we don’t have the time or knowledge to do it ourselves correctly. But yet, when it comes to developing food products- thanks to the secrecy of the food industry and the glossing over by fakeumentary TV, entrepreneurs are learning the hard way that it’s not so glossy after all.

 

As a food science consultant myself, I have heard all the horror stories and tales of food start up companies that didn’t research properly and spent thousands more than was necessary. Failed production runs, overpaying for lab tests and shelf life issues that could have easily been avoided had they just hired a technical expert to assist them. Simple tools that cost a few hundred dollars (like pH meters and refractometers) can help ensure consistency while you develop your idea, versus paying a lab to do it for you. Understanding how to use a simple spreadsheet to set up nutritional analysis (hey finance gurus turned food experts– this should be a walk in the park for you). Don’t rely on your co packer to assume that your first production run will be a success, and don’t blame them when your organic natural color solution turns black in month because you did not do your shelf life study (I wish I had a bitcoin for every shelf life study that was not done and subsequently lead to a failed launch- for the sake of expediting to market).

It makes me sad when I walk the floors of Expo West and Fancy Food Show and hear entrepreneurs tell me “if only I had found a food science from the get-go”. Well I am here to remind all those who are just starting out that they should do JUST THAT! Consider this the dime store advice that you will wish you took in 2 years from now.

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Who said freeze dried fruit powders, foams and sodium alginate balls in fine dining is dead—?! Oops I may have said it a few years ago but clearly I was just thrown off by too much local bay area farm to table natural, untouched and unprocessed farmers market locally grown meals. This years World of Flavors conference reminded me of how much fun food can be and how chefs, especially chefs from Spain, should really have PhD’s in food science with all the research they have done to perfect their freeze dried tomato powder discs with olive caviar sodium alginate balls—AKA “Tomato Polvoron and Arbequina Caviaroli”

I had the amazing opportunity to eat at El Bulli back in 2011, right before it closed. At the time I had mixed feelings about the powders foams and gels on my plate- on the one hand I felt resentful that chefs were getting all the praise just because they were using food science ingredients that had been invented and discovered by the great food scientists of 100 years ago but on the other hand I was in awe of all the artistic food creations that could be made that the food scientist never explored because we were too busy trying to make sure that our salad dressing with xanthan looked as normal as possible in the supermarket. The chefs are artists when it comes to using industrial ingredients to create meals and food scientists are just very dry and practical about the whole thing.

The last few years the farm to table, free range, knowing the origin of the food theme has permeated the bay area like our thick fog! Most dinners are delicious but as Sara Deseran noted in her talk during the “San Francisco A City In Discovery” general session, that elite San Franciscans don’t like their food “messed with”- They like it as natural and recognizable as possible and ideally with no wasted stems, leaves or snouts left behind (that’s gets tossed into the special salad of the day!) I have to say, eating out over the past few years has not been anywhere near as exciting as it was back in the early 2000’s when I would eat tomato salads with ice cream vinaigrette dressing at Coi and edible paper at Moto (Chicago). If I want to eat a plate of beautiful sliced heirloom tomatoes, I may as well pick them up myself at the local farmers market! The Natural food movement is tasty but…well.. it’s kinda boring. How long can we talk about the life that our chicken had, before it ended up on the plate.

But my experience at World of Flavors reminded me just how fun the early 00’s were, and I was amazed at the creativity of chefs Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casanas and the demonstrations we saw based on the dishes from the restaurant “Disfrutar” (to enjoy) in Barcelona. These chefs used to work in the El Bulli kitchen and have the right skill, creativity and imagination to create dishes that are a beautiful blend of natural and non-existent in nature- at the same time. For example, how about that dish where they melted down gelatin and then reformed it into penne pasta—and then covered it in sauce and served the clear glassy penne with a creamy sauce. (for a more visual experience watch the video on the CIA livestream here)
How come I didn’t think of that—! Because molecular gastronomy, as it is incorrectly called, should really be called the artistic, creative fun and completely not productive uses of functional industrial food ingredients. Exactly the opposite of what food scientists do with those very same ingredients.

I was also very excited to see that exotic freeze dried ingredients on display—being sold in packages to chefs—but not the unexciting freeze dried peas and corn that we find in our instant cup of soup. Companies are now selling half slices of passion fruit and cherry tomatoes. Freeze drying is experiencing a brand new wave of existence in the U.S. with the recent introduction of the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer- chefs and soccer moms can make their own freeze dried foods at home.

If you didn’t make the conference this year, you should check out all the video footage that is available, for free from the CIA website. Starting with this 3-minute highlight of the show—you can almost experience the entire show from beginning to end thanks to Rich’s Food and Unilever Food Solutions—the very generous sponsors!

I get calls from lots of start up companies asking me how they can keep their label “clean” and ensure that their product has no preservatives, is all natural and uses fresh local ingredients—oh and they also want it to be affordable and shelf stable too!

Everyone wants their product to hit all the current trend buttons (natural, clean label, locally sourced, GMO Free, Organic) – but sometimes you have to compromise in order to ensure that you are creating something that is both safe and affordable- and it also helps to understand that just because something sounds like it is not natural, doesn’t mean that it isn’t!

Lets start with mold inhibitors- anyone who wants their somewhat moist baked good to last on the shelf is going to have to keep the fuzzy stuff at bay –and there are a wide variety of natural and synthetic versions. Potassium sorbate for example is a great yeast and mold inhibitor that is inexpensive and works in a wide variety of pH’s and food bases- it’s not natural but it does the job! Sodium benzoate is also cheap, synthetic and keeps the bad bacteria at bay! There are more natural options that you can use- and they are called cultured dextrose- (sold locally by Mezonni Foods http://www.mezzonifoods.com/) – It’s a cleaner label bacteria inhibitor that is created via fermentation of milk and sugar with probiotic organisms and works in a wide variety of applications like salad dressings and cured meats, soups and dairy products. They cost more but allow you to maintain a “natural” statement on your label (assuming all other ingredients are natural as well). Of course you can always cook your product (IE canned foods and jarred shelf stable sauces often just rely on heat as a the preservation method-however any thermal process must be approved by your local health inspector and the FDA!) or you can add tons of salt or sugar- those too can inhibit bacteria by lowering the water activity of the product.

What about flavorings? No one in the specialty food industry wants to put artificial flavor in their products and that is understandable but keep in mind that natural flavors are more expensive and less concentrated than artificial so you need to use more of them to get a flavor impact. If you want to flavor up a lemon cake- you may only need 0.02% artificial flavor but would have to use 2 to 3% of a natural flavor to get the same effect—AND that natural flavor is going to cost you more money. So what can you do? You can use a flavor called WONF (with other natural flavors) which is a blend of similar flavors used to make up the flavor you like but at a slightly reduced cost- you can tell your flavor supplier that you want an “off the shelf” flavor that they may already sell to several companies (a stock flavor) that they probably produce in bulk at a cheaper price. Talk to your flavor supplier about options!

Even starches can fall in the natural or not natural category—If a starch is referred to as a “modified food starch” it is not a natural thickener—you need to ask your supplier to provide you with a natural “unmodified” food starch. There are also other ways to thicken a product like via dehydration or evaporation of water—using tomato paste (if your product is tomato based), or experimenting with gums and hydrocolloids. Most hydrocolloids are natural like xanthan, gum Arabic, and gum acacia. Gum supplier websites like TIC (www.ticgums.com) have a wealth of information about gums and to use them to improve everything from particulate suspension to moisture retention in your food products.

There are always natural alternatives in the world of ingredients and it’s just a matter of balancing out what you need with the right price point.

Lets face it, we all love sugar! Not only does it taste great, but it’s incredibly functional providing bulk and structure to baked goods, confections and a multitude of other food products. Sugar is amazing—except that we all need to limit our intake. Sugar leads to diabetes and obesity and cavities and lots of other health problems. Unfortunately this wonderful delicious functional ingredient can only be consumed in small amounts.

There are lots of sugar substitutes out there that can help the nutritional profile of your product but most have drawbacks. High intensity sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit may not have any calories, but they also don’t have any bulk or functional capabilities. Have you ever tried to make a cake out of stevia—not possible! There are also sugar alcohols out there like Sorbitol, Xylitol and Erythritol, which are commonly found in gum and sugar free candy. Consumers need to be careful when eating products that contain sugar alcohol. If you have ever eaten a whole chocolate bar made with sorbitol, you know why—it can cause grumbly stomachs and gas in sensitive consumers.

There are two new exciting sweet ingredients on the market that can help you, the formulator, control sugar in your products but still provide the bulk you need to create those products! You may have seen the word Chicory Root Fiber, Inulin or the scarier sounding “Oligiosaccharide” on labels of food products that have a nice dose of fiber. All of these ingredients are in the same family of “prebiotics”. Prebiotics are a category of functional fiber ingredients that stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial “good” bacteria in the colon. Most prebiotics come in both syrup and powder form and have less than 3% glucose. The powder form is typically around 95% fiber and the syrup, which is a blend of the powder and water- is around 70%. They both have a light sweet taste (about 50-60% of sucrose). Prebiotics essentially can be used to replace all or part of the sugar in your formula with fiber. Your carbohydrate content can stay the same, but your grams of sugar are now grams of fiber and your product will have a lower glycemic index. You can call it “dietary fiber” on your label and educate your consumer on the benefits of prebiotics in their food. The company Vita Fiber (bioneutra.ca) sells prebiotic fiber in retail sized containers or in 25 KG containers. It can be used in candy, granola, beverages, trail mix and anything that could have or would have contained sugar. Manufacturers take note- like with all fiber products, some consumers may be sensitive to large quantities consumed in one sitting. Make sure your portion sizes have no more than 5 or 6 grams of “dietary fiber” per serving.

The second ingredient worth exploring is a bit more complex and difficult to procure and it has some development restrictions. Allulose is a brand new sugar replacement on the market that virtually no one is using… yet! Allulose is a very low calorie (0.39 calories per gram) sugar that tastes exactly like sugar, because it is! It official sugar name is D-Psicose, and it is one of the many different sugars that exists in nature in very small quantities. It was first identified in wheat and has since been found in corn, figs and raisins. It is a monosaccharide (simple sugar) that is recognized as a carbohydrate and absorbed by the body but is not metabolized, so it is essentially calorie free and has no impact on blood glucose levels. Allulose is not yet available in supermarkets but manufacturers can order it directly and use it in moderate amounts in their food product creations. Allulose has received Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status from the FDA. There are two companies that sell allulose- Tate &Lyle and a non-GMO version from The Anderson Global Group.

Prebiotic fibers and D-Psicose are both great ways to reduce sugar, increase fiber and help consumers manage their glucose response. Unlike high intensity sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia, which must be used in combination with maltodextrins, these two ingredients already have bulking capacity and can provide the function you need without the calories or sugar.

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Cricket Dumplings on the Menu RETHINK FOOD!

Last month was the yearly Rethink Food Conference held in November at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in St. Helena, CA. The conference addressed what, how and why we cook and eat the way we do—and what we will be doing (or need to be doing) in the future to improve our lives, our land and the animals that we eat.

Seminars and breakout sessions were a bit all over the place, making it difficult for a food scientist like me to pull it all together. Some topics like “Foods of Tomorrow” had presenters discussing sea vegetables, crickets and fermented foods which I could relate to as future protein sources, future under consumed ingredients that we can start eating—but other seminars like The Flavor Learning Curve, while interesting, didn’t seem to really fit the program and maybe belongs in one of the CIA’s other more creative culinary science conferences.

The speakers came from all areas of the food industry and included Kirsten Tobey, the founder of Revolution Foods, Sara Burnett, director of Wellness and food policy at Panera bread as well as local bay area chefs including Stuart Brioza (State Bird Provisions) and Courtney Burns (Bar Tartine). The wide array of professional food industry backgrounds all came together as each speaker shared their views on why we mistrust technology, robots cooking our food, and how food companies need to be more “transparent” in order to regain consumer trust. Preservation methods of the past are now being revisited in bay area restaurants as a way to be more sustainable (and healthy).

Some seminars were logical and I could see the connection between what was being said and what can and will be done- like the introduction of crickets as a protein source is a reality that we are already experiencing with companies like EXO selling their cricket bars—but other topics were still “far out there” like “Visions of the Future” that discussed how technology will shape how we interact with our foods.

The attendees were just as diverse as the speakers. Key players from McDonalds were there- as well as Google team members, chefs, and Ideo (one of the major sponsors), Coca Cola, and Chipotle Grill. Yes– the big chain companies are interested in making a difference!

An interactive group ideation session that was organized by IDEO allowed us to get into groups and brainstorm questions together while writing them on sticky notes—and using those ideas to come up with hypothetical finished technology concepts. A machine that analyzes what you eat and tells you its time to stop, or more biodegradable and edible packaging—(edible spoons made out of Sorghum). The video with all the team ideas can be watched online on the conference live stream: http://livestream.com/CIAlive/reThinkFood2015

This conference hit a lot of different angles and gave me (the food scientist) much to think about. Trying to understand the role of the food scientist in this changing landscape is challenging. The food scientist is usually just an executor of whatever the marketing and CEO dictates—as well as being a pillar for quality and safety- we rarely get a say in the bigger picture decisions and are mostly part of the execution. This conference served as an introduction to bigger topics that will affect how developers create and bring new food products to market.

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_3401Can someone please tell me what is wrong with gums and stabilizers—and why did so many of the beverage entrepreneurs in the beverage competition at the BEVNET show (www.bevnet.com) refer to it as “filler”. As far as I a concerned, something used to help suspend and thicken at the 0.05% usage level that comes from the root of a tree is hardly filling up any space at all—we should be grateful that some genius food scientist was kind enough to identify it, isolate it, purify it and sell it in powder form so entrepreneurs don’t have to dig up roots and grind it themselves. But yet, the company MALK based their Bevnet winning pitch on the fact that their product does not have all those “fillers”.

I just got back from Bevnet.com and was amazed, amused and hydrated all at the same time. I was invited there by Draco, a company in northern California that sells whole fruit and vegetable extract powders, they asked me to speak on their behalf as an unbiased third party and educate attendees on functional ingredients.

While at the show I got to taste everything and make a mental summary in my mind of what is trending in the beverage world. First and foremost—coconut is not going anywhere any time soon—we no longer want just the water but we really need to drink in all that heavy coconut cream fat as well—MCT’s and other fatty acids are good for us!

Aside from that there were the usual interesting and exotic options like lemon juice with charcoal (to detox me), lots of coffee, lots of Kombucha and one drink that even claimed to work as a sunscreen if you drank it 30 minutes before going into the sun.

I love to report back on the trade shows I attend and this is one of the interesting ones. For a consultant like me I get to see what is new and interesting as well as connect with local ingredient suppliers and co packers. For beverage entrepreneurs, they get to attend classes, connect with suppliers and learn about how to commercialize and market beverage products. The BEVNET website is a wealth of information for anyone interested in reading about the beverage world. Up to date and relevant material!

For years I have been going to the IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) show because it’s the biggest ingredient show for food scientists and a great opportunity to source industrial ingredients like starches, gums, flavors, colors and organic ingredients. BUT for the last few years another ingredient show is slowly emerging on the food science scene.

The Supply Side show! Years ago no one except people in the vitamin and supplement world used to go to Supply Side, held every year in early October in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. But that is all changing as more and more ingredient supplier companies like David Michael Flavors, TIC Gums and Danisco/Dupont are slowly beginning to take over. As a matter of fact, one of my friends, a flavor sales rep who lives in the Vegas area told me he was SHOCKED at the new ticket price to attend Supply Side because in the past, “They had to practically pay people to attend”.

But as the old saying goes— where the ingredient suppliers exhibit the money from those exhibiting ingredient suppliers will follow — the organization that runs Supply Side (which also, I just learned runs one of the industrial food trade journals food product design) is realizing how much the food industry is growing and the big trend in start up companies that want to combine both food and supplements (why swallow a boring pill when you can have naturally nutrient infused full fat paleo style ice cream!?)

So it seems like every trade show I attend has a growing “ingredient supplier section” – like Expo West formerly a hippie all natural finished product show, now has a whole separate WING referred to as Engredia dedicated to helping those start ups find industrial ingredients (flavors, sweeteners, organic ingredients, gums, starches, vitamin mixes, gluten free flours) and co packers (private label energy bars, pouch co packers, bakeries). I think Expo West realized that if the show is to keep growing they need serious cash and ingredient companies have that kinda cash! It’s a win-win for everyone because not only can the small start ups in the basement of Expo West show their exciting new wares but they can then wander over and source out new ingredient suppliers as well.

Too bad Supply Side is only two days long, I could have wandered that show that show for several days! Here are a few interesting trends I noticed

Probiotics—dry form, powdered form, liquid form, shelf stable form. Yogurt is so 2010—we just need to mix it into a freeze dry powder now!

CBD’s– The NON psychoactive part of the marijuana plant. It gives you a body high and not a mental high.

New Age Ingrdients: Maca, Spirulina, Chia, Matcha, Hemp, Tumeric and Omega-3’s. Its not like these ingredients didn’t exist before but now they are slowly showing up as value added food ingredients.

Honorable mention and KUDOS to the ONE non-edible trade show exhibitor that dared to exhibit at an ingredient foodie show. The Health Mate Infrared Saunas! I had a chance to take a break and sit in their sauna box for awhile and rest my feet in their sauna foot box. The booth reps were extremely friendly and fun and they told me if any of my readers are interested in such an item, they will extend their trade show discount (just tell them you heard about their products through Rachel the food scientist). Sometimes its nice to have a booth where you can just sit and rest your feet without feeling like you have to talk biz with the booth owners.

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Supply Side West will now be part of my regular yearly trade show tour. The attendance fee varies but check in with me in 2016 and I may be able to forward you a pass from one of the kind vendors that offer up 2-day floor passes for $75. Rooms can be as expensive or as cheap as you want (just be sure to stay at a hotel that has tram or easy access to the convention center or else you will have serious taxi fees (Vegas just started allowing Uber and Lyft— the economical way to get around vegas!)

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend BonAppetech  #GoodFoodInnovation conference held at the Innovation Hanger space right by the Palace of Arts (San Francisco). I only was able to attend the mini expo and new idea pitches but that was enough to give me a sense of who the up and coming superstars are in the food “space”!

I should probably clarify for myself and for those reading this blog that Food Tech does not mean what a food scientist thinks it means. For people like me (food scientists) Food Tech means “Food Technology” which means chemistry, microbiology, product development, and so on. But in the bay area “tech” has a whole other definition. Food Tech can be anything in the “food space” and that includes recipe apps, virtual food hubs, a new line of mercury-tested tuna fish , or an “app” that allows businesses to donate their unused food to local shelters and get a tax break.

Its always a bit surreal for me to walk through these events feeling like I am just on the outer fringe of what these innovators are doing. The were very few finished food products (a few energy bars and some concentrated water flavors) and the ones I did see were not particularly impressive but I learned that its not about the product, but the ideas behind it- the product is just a tool to push the concepts forward.

What WAS impressive were the forward thinkers who presented their ideas to the audience, like Edibags-a company that makes edible forks out of pressed sorghum and Hopsey, a company that delivers affordable gourmet beer to your house.  I got to eat some chocolate pudding with these edible spoons- they are VERY durable and are being designed for food service.

“Food Tech” is not about food science technology but about new ideas and innovations that are being executed by young start up companies that will help transform the way we eat, create and interact with our farms. These ideas are still in early stages and eventually the food tech start ups will probably need a “food technologist” to help them expand their ideas into a reality. I hope to be a part of that next phase!

If you live in the bay area, check out the meet up groups called “food tech”. I joined them because I thought they would be food science groups (but I forgot that MOST food scientists are locked up in big food companies and don’t go to sharing meet up group type events-) so instead of finding fellow food scientists, I found other food people in a space that is pushing ideas and concepts to change the way we eat!

 

The Pink Elephant In The Room

I can’t help but wonder—why is everyone pretending that Hampton Creek is a great company doing great things for our earth? The facts are so clear and obvious but I see the issues being skirted in the media and the majority of readers—including the smart ones that listen to NPR radio- are giving Hampton Creek way more credit than they deserve—lets do a recap here of what is being said and what is really true:

  1. Just Mayo is a PLANT BASED product: Just Mayo is almost all oil and modified food starch. It is not natural (modified food starch is not natural) and the finished product is certainly not “plant based”in the way that Hampton Creek is making it out to be. Yes it has oil (like most spreads and dressings) and it also has the modified food starch mentioned (from corn) but the pea protein- -which is the “plant” that Hampton Creek is saying that the product is based on- is only in the product at less than 2%. It really isn’t even needed in there!
  2. Just Cookies (or Cookie Dough) Can Change the World: Is a plant based product- Just Cookie dough or cookies has less than 2% sorgum (the plant that is supposedly making this product the amazing cookie that it is) – but really the cookie is mostly flour, sugar and other typical cookie ingredients like xanthan gum, brown sugar and soy lecithin. So how can this cookie change the world again?
  3. Poor Hampton Creek- the FDA is really being Mean: The FDA may do lots of things that the masses do not agree with- but I think everyone should agree that its nice to have defined products out there so food companies can’t deceive us into thinking their margarine is butter or their jam is not artificially sweetened/colored sugar and pectin. Mayonnaise just happens to be a defined product and Just Mayo has a picture of an EGG on it—so to many people who don’t watch the news or NPR radio, they will assume they are getting real mayonnaise and instead they are getting modified food starch and oil.
  4. Just Mayo-It’s JUST a name: Just Mayo has a whole bunch of violations on their label including the name, healthy implications and ingredient statement violations.

I work with start up companies that don’t even get 10K in investment money, let alone 120 million and they still did their due diligence and read the CFR’s (that would be the CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS) to ensure they didn’t violate any labeling regulations and mislead consumers.

Hampton Creek loves to boast about how their product is so affordable—of COURSE its affordable- its cheap oil and modified food starch. Modified food starch is why we get cheap shelf stable puddings and dry gravy mixes—its like a SUPER ingredient that can leap across mountains and make ingredients do what they don’t normally do.

Everything about Hampton Creek reminds me of the Molecular Gastronomy era. Remember Ferran? Wylie Dufrense? Homaro Canto (may he rest in peace)? All these chefs loved playing around with modified food starch and carboxymethycellulose and xanthan gum. They were AMAZED at all the cool things industrial ingredients (invented and discovered like a million years ago by my long dead food science professors professors) could do— like a kid in candy store they discovered the ingredients we have been using all along. Hampton Creek even hired one of those cool molecular chefs Ben Roche- formerly of Hampton Creek.

Hampton Creek is not going to save the world by putting out products that have already long ago been invented. At BEST they are bringing awareness to the masses on how chickens are treated and how not eating chicken/chicken products we can use less water and less resources—but that is AT BEST.. at WORST they are putting out silly products to promote their own marketing agenda—and wasting millions of dollars on researching pea proteins and sorghum that don’t really add anything to their product.

It would have cost less money to pay Josh Tetrick a salary to go around the country with his chef side kick Chris Jones giving talks on how we don’t need eggs to make cookies and doing demo’s on the wonders of food starch. Think of all those millions that could go to food science departments and fund real research being conducted by real food scientists and not molecular gastronomy chefs.

*For the record, I always admired chefs who play with industrial ingredients as they were able to bring creativity to the table using the very same ingredients that we (the food scientists) use to make foods normal and functional. So three cheers for those chefs- they have their place and space in this world—to entertain and amuse us with hydrocolloids and dehydrated bell pepper powder dipped squid – not squander money that uninformed investors paid in to get a scientifically sound and legal food product.

Josh Tetrick has offended me as a food scientist and as a human being. I don’t like being mislead and I don’t like it when marketing teams try to pretend like their product is all that– when it ain’t and its been done MANY times before.