Innovation is evolution and managing a food system while navigating a myriad of changes requires ongoing attention and dialogue. Indeed, innovation is alive and well in the sustainable food industry and, in its many forms, will be on display at Natural Products Expo West.
Here, New Hope Network’s Director of Market Integrity, Shelley Sapsin, explains how New Hope specifically addresses food technology, one of the innovations changing the food industry, and what you can expect to see in Anaheim. To learn more about food tech and other innovations we hope to see more of in 2022, click here.
There has been rapid innovation in “food technology” over the past two years. Will we see products at Natural Products Expo using these new technologies?
Shelley Sapsin: Expect to see an incredible number of new and innovative products. Covid may have taken us away from the show, but it hasn’t slowed down innovation at all. And yes, some of these innovative products use food technology.
What kind of technologies would that include?
SS: Food technology, broadly defined, is the application of food science to food preservation, processing, packaging and safety. But today, food technology is shorthand for processes like precision fermentation (where genetically engineered microorganisms produce specific functional molecules like proteins) and cell culture production (where animal cells are grown outside of their natural environment) to produce products that we traditionally expect only from animals.
Is this the first time you have received applications from exhibitors from food technology companies?
SS: No. One thing that’s important to understand is that many of the technologies behind these new products have been around for a very long time. Precision fermentation, for example, was first used in 1978 to make synthetic insulin from E.coli bacteria. Twelve years later cheese makers began using microorganisms to produce rennet and today more than 80% of the rennet used in cheese comes from fermented chymosin (FPC) instead of animal rennet. Cheeses made this way have been on the show floor for years. And it’s not just cheese; many vitamins and enzymes are also produced using precision fermentation.
Don’t you agree that even though some of the technology is the same, milk without cows looks different?
SS: Yes. Whenever something doesn’t meet our expectations – milk without a cow, for example – it looks different; exciting for some but worrisome for others. That’s why we prioritize transparency and standards and encourage everyone to understand how products are made.
Does this mean New Hope has taken a stand on food tech?
SS: We have a position but it is not for or against food technology. It is a matter of transparency. Products like these are now in the food system, marketed as solutions to planetary problems. We all want solutions to some of the important challenges we face: access to food, climate change, freshwater depletion, nutrient-poor food, food waste, and more. This industry is a fine combination of traditionalists, conservatives and innovative disruptors. What better group of people to create informed solutions, as long as polarization doesn’t get in the way?
At best, we are idealists, pursuing missions that improve health and sustainability. At New Hope, we want to cultivate a thriving, high-integrity CPG and retail ecosystem, an economically strong industry capable of creating health, joy, and justice for all and regenerating the planet. This is our mission, and it depends on our ability to provide a place where voices can be heard. We strive to create transparency and integrity in our marketplace and provide tools to discern competing ideas and resulting products. At Expo next week, we will do just that.
What does New Hope do to promote transparency and discernment?
SS: We collect various thoughts; we do research and use it to write in-depth content. Every brand exhibiting at Expo for the first time goes through our standards department, and we review them again at the show. Long before the event, we see the ideas and innovations coming in and we work with the brands to make sure they meet our requirements. Our standards process is a very important part of who we are and what we stand for. We maintain ingredient standards, we have labeling and marketing requirements, and most importantly, we have specific requirements for when a product can and cannot be labeled natural. Food technology, for example, may not be labeled natural.
Do you have specific standards for food technology?
SS: Our exhibition Exhibitor Standards do not deal with food technology separately from other products, but they do deal with how they can be labelled. Our standards allow products made with or sourced from genetically modified organisms or bioengineered ingredients, but these products cannot be labeled or promoted with any “natural”, “all natural” or “100% natural” claims. “. We also recommend that these products include a source statement for added transparency. the Expo Ingredient Standards and Guidelines recommend manufacturers use non-GMO sources for sweeteners, colors, flavors and flavor enhancers, preservatives, gums/thickeners/emulsifiers, bread ingredients and dough conditioners. We also verify all third-party brand logos, including certified non-GMO logos.
Non-GMO, however, can be tricky because some proteins, for example, produced by precision fermentation are not considered bioengineered ingredients, even if produced from a genetically modified organism. is this not ?
SS: It’s true. This is one of the reasons we develop definitions, with the help of a well-rounded industry panel, to accompany our exhibitor standards. When presented with products that rely on food technology and make plant-based, vegan, non-GMO, or natural claims, we can respond with consistency and promote transparency, which protects these terms for people. who rely on them in their purchases. the decisions.
What kind of products can we expect to see at the show?
SS: Expect to see real variety. You’ll see products made with food technology for years, like cheese, vitamin C, and resveratrol. Also look for collagen products, animal-free dairy ice cream, and seaweed-based fish. There are many exciting products on the floor that meet different needs.
As we walk through the floors next week, what should we ask? How do we find food tech products if we’re looking for them, or avoid them if we’re not looking for them?
SS: Start with the ingredients, of course, but don’t stop there. Ask about the source of an ingredient and always ask how the product is made. Consider its environmental and human impact, and whether there are studies that validate these claims. Look at the statement of identity on the product, the statement of allergens, and use claims such as animal-free, vegan, and plant-based as clues to ask more questions. And best of all, because we will be back in person, you can also taste these products.
What do you say to those who have strong feelings about food technology in one way or another?
SS: Come to Expo! Be part of the dialogue. Be heard. Be part of the solution.