The Paradox of Innovation & Food?

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by Sarika @ attune

This week I am attending the IFT Annual meeting and Food Expo in Chicago.   The IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) is a non-profit professional and educational organization for people in the field of food innovation; the organization’s tag line is “feeding the minds that feed the world”.  The Expo is a great place to meet vendors, ingredient suppliers, and other colleagues.  There are also tons of educational sessions.

As someone who loves real food and homemade meals, the concept of innovation in food can seem, at the surface, like a paradox.  How can you innovate on something that nature does so well?  To me, the answer is 1) by deeply understanding the nutrition and food related pain points of modern life, and 2) helping solve them with knowledge provided by nutrition and agriculture science along with wholesome real foods.   A great example of this came up at one of the educational sessions earlier today:  By understanding the components of human breast milk, as well as the bacterial environment at birth, researchers are able to create solutions that raise the immunity and defenses of babies that are born via c-section, and improve the nutrient quality of infant formula or cows milk for babies who may not have access to breast milk.  For many parents this is a huge comfort, and a testament to the power and worthy pursuit of innovation in modern nutrition and food.

For me, the most interesting aspects of being in the food industry are the basic connection to human nutrition and agriculture.  Both are areas that we have been innovating on for a very long time.  From agriculture techniques like Johnny Appleseed’s grafting to the isolation of intestinal micro-flora and its role in diabetes and other diseases –our curiosity about ‘how things work’ as well as ‘how to make things work for our lives’ has generally served us well!

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