Attending my first IFT Annual Meeting and Tradeshow at Chicago’s McCormick Place on July 12 was quite an interesting and engaging experience. With hundreds of exhibitors showcasing new ingredients and flavors, clean label applications, and the latest ingredient processing and testing technology, the expansive room was a Disney World of sights and sounds. There were creative, interactive exhibits, food scientists and equipment professionals all showcasing their latest innovations and ventures.

The samples available gave me a chance to experience these new innovations for myself. For example, Tabasco and its team served up Toasted Coconut and Mexican Spiced Coffee with Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce. Philadelphia, Pa.-based David Michael & Co. brought its 42-foot RV, a part of its “Great Escape to Innovate” tour, and showcased a bourbon maple pecan shake and a honey flavored craft soda. At ADM’s booth, experts discussed sweetener solutions, its Vivasweet launch along with nutritional beverage trends.

Members of the media were in strong attendance. New to Beverage Industry and new to writing about this fascinating, many-faceted industry, I met so many experts willing to engage, explain and educate.

I also attended several press events, including one for Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients (CIFI), a new company making its debut at IFT. Based in Nashville, N.C., CIFI will kick off the launch of a new processing plant in September. Also, it highlighted its unique line of sweet potato ingredients, which provide nutritional and clean label benefits. Booth samples include a 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice blend.

 With the depth of information shared and many new trends to unveil, there’s much more to share in future issues of Beverage Industry.