News from IFT FIRST 2023

by | Jul 20, 2023

IFT FIRST is back and better than ever! This week, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) gathered thousands of industry professionals:

  • Over 800 exhibiting companies are showcasing the latest innovations and learning in food and beverage
  • 100+ scientific sessions and multi-disciplinary discussions are happening with topics ranging from sustainability to food safety to innovation
  • Almost 500 poster presentations share the latest food and beverage science and research
  • The Startup Pavilion features 100 food and beverage emerging companies competing in a pitch contest

IFT is a must-attend event within the food and beverage industry, and the show organizers continue to create an engaging and exciting atmosphere that draws people back every year. Couldn’t make the show? Let’s explore FlavorSum’s participation and key topics from educational sessions!

FlavorSum at IFT FIRST 2023: Deliciously Crafted Non-Alc Beverages

IFT FIRST offers the largest platform for B2B food and beverage ingredient brands to share the results of year-long efforts. From delicious demos to the latest technology and sustainably-made packaging, the show is rife with innovation.

For this year’s event, the FlavorSum team created a bar-like experience with four thoughtfully formulated mocktail prototypes and candy-coated pretzels acting as a ‘bar snack.’ Guests had a chance to sip and chat with the FlavorSum team while discussing new projects, exciting insights, and delicious tastes.

Menu board for mocktails

While connecting with show attendees, we fielded questions about whether non-alcoholic drinks resonate with people and have staying power. Industry research, purchasing data, and our proprietary study all point to a resounding yes! In fact, Nielsen IQ reports that US sales of non-alcoholic adult drinks reached almost $400 million in 2022. Purchase motivators include alcohol moderation, social benefits, relaxation goals, and many considerations that also affect the choice of traditional cocktails, like exciting tastes and recognizable flavors.

So, we know people are reaching for non-alc drinks, but what flavors are they gravitating towards? Here’s the story behind our insights-driven mocktail concepts from the show!

Blackberry Mule with Ginger, Lime, & Rooibos Tea

Our fruit-forward tea-based mocktail, inspired by the popular mule-style cocktail, features a combination of flavors that create a deliciously unique taste experience with the complexity people want in a non-alc drink. The non-caffeinated Rooibos tea paired with the brightness of blackberry, lime, and ginger delivers a memorable end-of-day drink.

Standout Statistic: No-alc ‘mule’ cocktail social conversations increased 38% in the last year. (Tastewise)

a row of different colored smoothies in mason jars

Cucumber Basil Gin Rickey

A refreshing twist on a class cocktail, the cucumber basil gin rickey pairs citrus and cucumber tastes with gin flavors to create a recognizable and hydrating drinking experience without the buzz.

Standout Statistic: Gin-based no-alc cocktail social conversations are up 53% in the past year. (Tastewise)

Koia Protein Chocolate Banana Plant-Based Shake

Oaked Yuzu Lemonade

Lynchburg Lemonade goes sober with this complex concept that offers no bitterness and a delightfully sweet and tart taste profile that ends with a subtle oak note.

Standout Statistic: The combination of yuzu and lemonade generated more than 30% more social conversations in the last year. (Tastewise)

slices of avacado toast with feta cheese and tomatoes

Island Rum Punch

The flavor experts at FlavorSum creatively combined ten different flavor offerings in a robust rum punch experience with a little kick from the Caribbean flavors of Falernum.

Standout Statistic: Social conversations around a tropical non-alc rum punch flavor increased 4x in the last year. (Tastewise)

A bag of BrandOut Avocado Chips

Are you interested in sampling one of our flavor pairings demoed at IFT? Reach out to our team to learn more.

Buzzing Topics from IFT FIRST 2023

Each year, IFT identifies a theme rippling through the industry to drive topics discussed throughout the course of the show. The 2023 theme is “Innovation in a Time of Crisis: Can We Future-Proof the Food System?’ The IFT organization notes supply chain disruptions, cost-saving initiatives, and complex research demands are byproducts of recent global crises. The sessions over the three-day show targeted solutions to these problems in the spirit of innovation. The talks addressed five subthemes to drive ideation:

  • Novel Technology and Innovation
  • Sustainability & Climate
  • Health and Nutrition
  • Food Safety
  • Consumer Insights and Education

Novel Technology and Innovation

On day one of the show, Former Head of Innovation & Creativity at Disney, Duncan Wardle, opened with a keynote session on “Embedding Innovation into Everyone’s DNA.” Wardle’s session aimed to “make creativity tangible, innovation easy, and the process enjoyable.” His “Innovation Toolkit” inspires leaders and professionals to home in on creativity as a key driver of innovation. Complex problems require complex solutions. Wardle suggests a creative problem-solving approach might address the challenges rippling the food and beverage industry.

Sustainability & Climate

Are you sustainable enough? CEO at The Center for Food Integrity, Charlie Arnot, aimed to answer that with his season titled, “Are You Sustainable Enough? Evaluating Priorities and Balancing Tradeoffs as Pressure Mounts.” Brands strive to create goals and processes focused on sustainability. Arnot’s sessions focused on the expanding definition of sustainability, including health and wellness, animal welfare, treatment of workers, and more. He recommends brands take a holistic approach aligned with their values to promote authenticity.

Health and Nutrition

At its core, IFT FIRST is a food science expo. The FIRST stands for ‘Food Inspired by Research, Science, and Technology. Among major trends within food and beverage, health and wellness top the list. But what role does food science play in the policies that aim to regulate health and wellness? One IFT FIRST session aimed to find out: “What Is the Role of Food Science in Public Health and Nutrition Policy?” The session gathered industry leaders from academia, research groups, and IFT members. The discussion centered around current processed food policies that might stifle innovation and how food science can inform policy to avoid this.

Food Safety

In recent history, consumer distrust of food brands has ticked up. People have become wary of the food supply system as news spreads about contamination outbreaks and subsequent recalls. Brands face increased scrutiny about many new products entering the marketplace, like plant-based meats and novel sweeteners. In the IFT FIRST session, “What New Challenges Are Arising in Food Safety and How Are They Affecting Consumer Trust in the Food Supply,” industry experts discussed how manufacturers can instill trust around food safety and better educate consumers.

Consumer Insights and Education

Not everyone is a food scientist (and that’s ok!). But people sometimes need help understanding the complexities of food formulation and may make decisions affected by their lack of understanding. In the IFT FIRST session, “What Are Strategies for Effectively Communicating to Non-Technical Audiences,” sensory and insights experts gathered to offer counsel. The session leveraged real-life case studies to highlight the importance of informed consumers and strategies to get people on board with food innovation.

Explore a New Kind of Flavor Partnership with FlavorSum

Thanks to all who visited with the FlavorSum team at IFT FIRST 2023.  We enjoyed connecting with you to discuss your product development goals and flavor needs.   Mark your calendars for IFT FIRST 2024, scheduled for July 15-17, 2023, back at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. If you’re ready to transform your food or beverage concept into reality, achieving your flavor, label claim, and formulating goals is within reach! Our flavor experts and applications team have the knowledge and tools to help you meet your flavor goals without compromising nutrition, taste, or eating experience. Reach out to our team to learn more.