It is always great to attend the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics #FNCE or Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition for dietitians. This year's FNCE was held in the home office city of Chicago and was very enjoyable.
I find it very interesting to see all of the food manufacturers' booths with their new products and trends in the exhibition hall. They are often parallel to what we see in the stores and it is more insightful to see them all at the same time. It is also great exercise to walk all of the aisles!
This year's exhibit was as much about what was not there as what was there.
Many of the big booths I usually see like McDonald's, Cocoa Cola, Kellogg's, Burger King, and Hershey's were missing. I will add more to that list as I remember them. I conferred with my roommate Michele Redmond who noticed the same thing.
Gluten-free was out of the picture this year compared to last year's overwhelming number of gluten free companies as we reported here. I did not see a sweeping trend filling its place but I did note some new observations.
I also did not see an emphasis on whole grains as I did last year.
New observations and what was there that is notable:
The most stunning booth was by Ocean Spray Cranberries with their huge cranberry bog. The bog was made possible by a swimming pool full of cranberries complate with rubber waders and cute red boots that allowed the attendees to see what it is like to be a cranberry farmer.
I observed a focus on sugar and sugar substitutes. The classics like honey, granulated sugar, and stevia were represented and touting the adjective natural as an advantage Many companies and exhibits were boasting about a lower sugar claim on packages including Pepsico, who was promising sugar reduction and portion control on their beverages now and coming up in the future for a 2025 goal.
But there are a couple new sugar substitutes. One of the ones I tried was Allulose, also known as Allulite, by Tate and Lyle. It is a sweetener that is 10 times more sweet than regular sugar and not absorbed by the body. The FDA requires the manufacturer to place an added sugar claim on the food label but they are allowed to footnote the claim that the added sugar is not absorbed. The flavor of the chocolate and pumpkin cider, 2 products with Allulose that I taste tested, was just like sugar and I did not detect an after taste. Consumers will find this sweetener in manufactured products or they can buy it in bulk for their own home baking. The sales representative at the booth said the product will perform like sugar in baked goods. We are going to get a package to test it and will keep you posted.
Swerve is a new sweetener that uses sugar alcohols that the manufacturer claims are well tolerated by the digestive tract. Normally most sugar alcohols cause digestive upset with excessive gas. I did not eat enough to test that claim but the flavor was good.
Ajinomoto had a large cooking demo booth with a professional chef and Michele really liked the chef and his cuisine. They manufacture low-sodium soy sauce and many other products. They are focused on flavors and flavor enhancers.
I did see an emphasis on organic, plant-based, and sustainable in many booths.
Kind Bar is one:
And here are a few more booths that emphasize plant-based foods:
The Eat Smart Salad mix booth with Victoria Shanta Retelnyria, RDN
See future FNCE dates and locations here.