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Trends inform and inspire all of our work. In the food industry, this means knowing when cupcakes are “out” and doughnuts are “in”; what’s happening with the FDA’s decision on the GRAS designation of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs); and what the next hot protein ingredient will be (could it be microalgae powder? or, perhaps, cricket flour?).

Food and lifestyle trends interest and influence us. So, as we head to the IFT14 Annual Meeting and Food Expo in New Orleans, we thought we’d highlight a few food industry trends we anticipate seeing on the trade show floor:

Tastes Like Transparency

People are continuing to demand transparency from the food industry, from the who and where (ingredient traceability) to the what and how (sustainability initiatives). Whether or not this information is shared is rarely an option for food processors and ingredient manufacturers – if you’re not sharing it yourself, someone else is likely sharing a story (true or not) for you. At IFT14, we’ll be interested in seeing how food, beverage, and ingredient brands will share their transparency stories with the industry.

(Preliminarily) PHO-Free

While regulatory compliance isn’t a trend in and of itself, the buzz surrounding the FDA’s preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) has oil ingredient manufacturers developing new PHO-free ingredients – and promoting existing ones – for food processors that may need to reformulate their canned frostings, microwaveable popcorn, cookies, frozen pizzas, and other PHO-reliant applications. In anticipation of the FDA announcement, some food processors are proactively reformulating their products to eliminate PHOs. We expect oil ingredient exhibitors will be addressing PHO-free reformulation at the show.

The Real Food Movement

As people seek more information about the food they eat, and as technology has made such information more accessible, there’s been a movement toward “real food.” Exemplified in the scrutiny of – and, in some cases, legal action against – products with “all natural” claims, people are shopping for real food, represented by minimally processed, recognizable ingredients from nature. As the real food movement has continued to grow, we expect additional ingredient manufacturers will be promoting the realness of their food ingredients at the IFT show.

The GMO Conversation

For some, “real food” requires non-GMO ingredients. While the GMO labeling debate continues, major brands like General Mills have taken steps to eliminate them from flagship products, while standing by their decision to continue making other products with GMO ingredients. As ingredient companies take steps to add non-GMO offerings to their product portfolios, we expect those brands that already have a non-GMO offering will be touting them at the trade show.

Snacking, Old School

Busy lifestyles have turned meal times into snack time and, paired with the demand for “real food,” driven a trend in better-for-you snacks. While ancient grains like chia and quinoa have been on grocery store shelves for a while, more recently, they’ve become standard in the snack food section. Ingredients like flax, amaranth, and teff are contributing nutritional value and satiety to applications while influencing the perception of snack foods as healthy, real, and wholesome. At IFT, we’ll be on the lookout for new snacks made with ancient grains.

As Sweet as Monk Fruit

Regardless of health and wellness motivations, at the end of the day, taste wins out as the most influential factor in food choices. Natural sweeteners, from stevia and monk fruit to honey and fruit juices, give brands options for creating “sweet” without refined sugar. At IFT, we look forward to seeing how food manufacturers answer the call for natural while upholding the sweetness to which consumers are accustomed.


Eight foods – peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish – account for 90% of food allergic reactions in the U.S. As education on and awareness of allergens and intolerance continue to increase (and, in some cases, inspire the non-allergic to adopt low allergen diets), food manufacturers are tapping into growing markets, like gluten-free, and seeking ingredients that support their allergen-free applications. In addition to the presentation on allergen-free formulation needs, challenges, and solutions at IFT14, we’ll be looking for brands showcasing the latest in allergen-free applications and ingredients.

Proteins with Potential

While egg remains the standard against which all other proteins are measured, the demand for alternate (such as allergen-free) protein ingredients has continued to drive innovation in this category. From cricket flour to microalgae powder, new applications and protein ingredients have remained a hot topic in the food industry. The IFT show is a great place to launch new ingredients, so we look forward to seeing the next big thing in protein this year in New Orleans.
Whether you’re adapting to changing trends or creating a new food or health trend yourself, we’d love to help. Get in touch and we’ll set up a time to chat during or after the show.

Nicole Hill assists clients in growing their businesses and brands by identifying opportunities, then developing and implementing goal-driven strategies.