Five Trends We Noticed at IFT FIRST 2022

After a two-year in-person hiatus, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) FIRST Event and Expo was back at Chicago’s McCormick Place. FIRST stands for Food Improved by Research, Science, and Technology. In other words, the expo is a place to see the latest global food and beverage trends on display and to show off what ofi can offer our customers across our ingredients and in application.


In case you missed our booth, we worked hard to showcase all of ofi’s capabilities. We shared how our nuts, cocoa, coffee, dairy, and spices product portfolio works together to create great concepts like walnut chorizo tacos and a cocoa golden milk. Plant-based and better-for-you were just two of the trends our concepts were rooted in. Not only did we share our interpretations of on-going trends, but we also announced the launch of deZaan organic cocoa. If you’re interested in learning more about ofi and partnering to make it real, email us.


So, what trends did we see?


It seemed like every aisle at the expo had at least one plant-based solution. Many companies decided to showcase their ability to execute on the latest in plant-based proteins. Pea protein stuck out as a dominant protein source used this year as it provides a similar protein punch as soy without the allergens. While it may be an on-trend plant-based protein, it also comes with its own challenges of taste off-notes. Algae had a small but strong presence. We especially enjoyed trying the algae dumplings that were on display. The flexitarian diet was also highlighted at the show. There were formulations that used a meat and plant hybrid to target consumers who may be trying to reduce their carbon footprint or eat a product they perceive to be healthier. Plant-based continues to expand categories as well. It’s no longer just meat and dairy alternatives, but so much more. According to Innova, food and beverage product launches outside of meat and dairy alternatives with a plant-based claim have had a CAGR of 56% from 2017 to 2021.We expect to see plant-based become even more prevalent and more diverse in the coming years.


Sustainability and Transparency

According to Innova, 59% of US consumers are interested in learning more about where their food comes from.2 The traceability of ingredients was firmly on display at IFT. And we saw many “Farm to Fork” references. Companies were showing off their supply chains (some with big maps) to tout where their ingredients come from and how they’re sustainable. Some were showcasing how they can upcycle what used to be byproduct into new ingredients like cranberry seed flour. Others were beginning to show how they use regenerative agricultural practices. With the increase in consumer focus on the sustainability of the food supply chain with recent events, this trend will only continue to grow in importance. ofi can offer customers a view into the social and environmental footprint of an ingredient from origin to destination through our sustainability insights platform, AtSource.

Sugar Reduction

Reducing ingredients with negative consumer perceptions continues to be of importance. According to Innova, 43% of US consumers are conscious about limiting or reducing sugar in their diets.Monk fruit, allulose, and other sweet ingredients were on display as alternatives to sugar, while other products highlighted their formulation requiring no sweeteners at all. That fits well with what consumers are saying - according to Innova, 61% globally agree that they’d rather cut back on sweetness than use alternative sweeteners.4 Spices can play a role in helping improve flavor while reducing sugar and our innovation team showcased a number of low or no sugar applications at IFT FIRST. We’ve already seen the trend start, but it seems to only be gaining in momentum.


Low & No Alcohol

Walking the floor, we noticed many low or no alcohol beverages on display. Many were in the form of mocktails trying to give a similar beverage experience without the alcohol, including the smoked milk punch our beverage specialist created for the show featuring ofi ingredients. While this trend has been more of an influence on the European market, it is working its way into the United States as well. The root of the trend is found in consumers’ growing interest in health and wellness, and by those looking for more functional options. Consumers are interested in beverages that are calming and relaxing without the alcohol. Expect to see more mocktails and alcoholic beverage alternatives on the market for years to come.

Gut Health

Consumers increasingly are linking what they eat to how they feel. They’ve begun to increase their focus on their gut health to feel better. According to Innova, more than 1 in 5 consumers have recently bought food or beverages with specific digestive or gut health benefits.5 IFT had no shortage of prebiotic, probiotic, and fiber options. As science continues to show more about how a healthy microbiome can lead to a healthier life, we’re sure to see more products that can aid in gut health.


We’re Continuing to Innovate

We plan to take the lessons learned from IFT and continue to further apply consumer trends to our innovation process. If you’re interested in partnering on co-creation to be the change for good food and a healthy future and work together on the trends highlighted above, please reach out to us.

1 Innova Market Insights
2 Innova Lifestyle & Attitudes Survey 2020
3 Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2021
4 Innova Flavor Survey 2021
5 Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2021

Watch our recap of IFT

Hear more about our IFT experience and learn about what applications and expertise we shared with our customers.


Kyle Neu | Market Insights Manager, ofi