James N. Klapthor

Summertime may be the perfect season for getting away from the daily grind but it was no picnic for Food Science Communicators with IFT who were as active fielding news media inquiries over the summer as any period in 2003.

Of course the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo in July commanded much attention from journalists on food-related topics, but it seems the scrutiny was more intense this year with timely announcements made prior to the meeting by Kraft, introducing its goals to reformulate popular foods into more nutritious snacks. That sent food reporters scrambling for experts able to deliver insight on general topics such as product development and specific expertise on trans fatty acids and fat replacers.

Chicago journalists knew enough to seek out the annual meeting and expo to find the inside scoop. CBS affiliate WBBMTV Ch. 2 produced and aired a report July 14 on the meeting and expo, including coverage of acrylamide in food and what consumers should be aware of. The next night, WBBM provided its audience an in-depth look at the newest healthy solutions to replacing trans fats and hydrogenated fats from products. Media giant Tribune Company’s cable television all-news station, Chicagoland TV, followed suit with its own new ingredients reports. But NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV Ch. 5 left the comfort zone of copying the competition by producing a product development feature on flavor encapsulation—not your normal commercial television newscast fodder. WMAQ-TV and WBBM-TV are the number-two and -three ranked newscasts in the city, respectfully, attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers to their nightly newscasts. Channel 2 anchor Antonio Mora, formerly of ABC Television and known around Chicago for his generous appetite, went so far as to take product samples from the set—presumably for his own enjoyment.

As the meeting and expo gained steam, WGN-AM radio jumped on board the product development train with a live, roundtable discussion on the subject utilizing the expertise of Communicators Mary Ellen Camire, University of Maine, Anuradha Prakash, Chapman University, and IFT national spokesperson Charles Santerre, Purdue University. The two-hour, syndicated Milt Rosenberg Show on July 13 revolved around the latest developments in food science and  technology and provided a closer look at the challenges of bringing to market new products that consumers desire. Prakash explained in detail the intricacies of Chapman students’ new snack intended for space flight, Pizza Poppers, winner of NASA’s annual product development competition. WGN-AM is Chicago’s top-rated radio station. Rosenberg’s show has aired there for 30 years.

Two nights later IFT President Ann Hollingsworth joined Communicators Fred Caporaso, Chapman University, and Camire on a special segment of Chicago Tonight on public broadcast station WTTW-TV. The live, three-person roundtable touched upon the broad challenges that professionals within Kraft will be faced with as part of its redesigned product strategy. This IFT panel also relayed the general excitement that’s permeating the food science and technology community, basing its judgment upon advancements in flavors and ingredients, packing, shipping and other factors responsible for creating today’s diverse food choices. WTTW-TV is Chicago’s leading public broadcasting station, broadcasting to more than 6 million viewers in four states including Indiana and Wisconsin. Chicago Tonight is its nightly news magazine, focusing on the top stories of the day.

Not to be overlooked during this annual period of IFT activity is a July 8 special report on food science and technology in the online edition of BusinessWeek magazine. “Why the Food Biz if Hungry for Tech” drew upon the expertise of Douglas Archer, University of Florida, Paul Dawson, Clemson University, and Communicators Barry Swanson, Washington State University and Santerre, to provide the insight into today’s rapid advancements in food. Swanson claimed today’s demand for increasing quality and safety is leading toward the greatest investments in food technology. Archer added that even technological advancements are not enough to replace common sense when handling food and maintaining sanitary conditions. Dawson spoke of his recent work on biosensors, and Santerre closed by predicting, “Over the next 20 years, technology is going to lead to the same transformation in food that the transistor did in electronics.” In a second article“It’s All in the Nose (and Tongue)” within the same special report, IFT Past-President Charles Manley, Takasago Corp., explained the nuances of flavors that can be added to make food taste hot-out-of-the-oven even when just opened at room temperature. BusinessWeek circulates over 5-million copies weekly. Its online product boasts more than one million registered users and more than two million unique  visitors monthly.

Media Relations Manager