At the IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo keynote session, then-incoming IFT President John Floros and President-Elect Sheri Schellhaass presented the inaugural IFT Food Expo Innovation Awards to six recipients—Adumin/P.L. Thomas, Atlantium Technologies, Biothera Inc., Decagon Devices, Dow Chemical Co., and Ocean Optics.
The 2007 IFT Food Expo Innovation Awards program—the first IFT program honoring exhibitors since the IFT Food Expo began in 1940—is designed to recognize outstanding innovation in products, ingredients, applications, instruments, equipment, technology, and services. The program was only open to companies exhibiting at the 2007 IFT Food Expo in Chicago. To be eligible, the product, technology, ingredient, instrumentation, equipment, or service must have been commercially introduced since January 1, 2006. New applications of existing products/services that were commercially introduced since then were also eligible. The entry period ran from March 13 through May 4, 2007.
A panel of nine jurors from industry, academia, and government with broad expertise in product and process development and food safety and quality selected the six companies and their innovations from 78 entries. Judging criteria included degree of innovation, solution to a problem relevant to food science and technology, technical advancement, benefits to food manufacturers and consumers, and scientific merit.
• Adumin/P.L. Thomas (www.plthomas.com) garnered the 2007 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award for their NutraLease nano-encapsulation technology, which is a patented ingredient/nutraceutical delivery system for food and beverage applications. The technology—based on nano-sized, self-assembled structured liquids—enhances the solubilization capacity of different compounds in either water- or oil-based environments. It also improves the bioavailability of some healthy compounds that are otherwise not functional in the human body. By encapsulating the compound, the technology protects against oxidation, enzymatic reaction, and hydrolysis.
The transparent encapsulating structure enables its use in clear beverages. Applications include nano-sized concentrates of vitamins E, D, A, and K, isoflavones, coenzyme Q10, carotenoids, and essential oils.
"This is an interesting innovation that could allow encapsulation technology to be extended to the delivery of bioactives to a wider range of products. This innovation could lead to significant public health benefits and be of interest to manufacturers who wish to add bioactives in stable form to beverages," stated a juror. Another juror described the technology as "essential as we move forward to unique applications of nutraceuticals, probiotics, etc."
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• Atlantium Technologies (www.atlantium.com) won the award for its Hydro-Optic water disinfection system. The technology combines advanced hydraulic and optic principles to treat and destroy water-borne pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. "This is an advance in the use of UV light to disinfect water. The technology seems to address shadows, which has been the major limitation of the use of UV. This technology may lead to advancements of UV sterilization with other liquids," stated a juror.
The system consists of a large quartz tube that acts as an effective light trap using the "total internal reflection" principle. This configuration creates a homogeneous uniform distribution of the UV light throughout the system’s cross-section at a dosage that systematically achieves high microorganism reduction (>5 log) with efficient energy utilization.
Control and monitoring are achieved by dual sensors, which track performance independently in real-time. One sensor measures lamp output directly, while the second monitors water UV transmittance to provide precise feedback for light intensity control and optimal system performance. Readings from the sensors feed a sophisticated control system that optimizes dosage and minimizes power consumption.
• Biothera Inc. (www.biotherapharma.com) was honored for its WGP 3-6 gluco polysaccharide. (Since receiving the award, the company has branded the product as Wellmune WGP.) The ingredient, based on yeast beta 1,3/1,6 glucan, improves the body’s immune defense against foreign invaders by enhancing the ability of white blood cells—including macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells—to fight bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. "A significant innovation representing the culmination of many years of research and study," stated a juror, "that has led to a functional ingredient that could have significant public health benefits to improve the human immune response. The practical application of this compound has been through the incorporation in a soluble form for foods and beverages. The submission has significant scientific merit."
The ingredient, recognized as GRAS, is shelf stable in its dry powder form. It is easily incorporated into various food and beverage formulations. Wellmune WGP is absorbed in the small intestine, consumed (phagocytosis) by monocytes and macrophage cells, and broken down into its bioactive fragments that subsequently bind to neutrophils. The "primed" neutrophil (glucan fragment bound to receptor on neutrophil) moves more easily to a site of infection (via enhanced chemotaxis) and kills non-self cells (phagocytosis or degranulation) such as bacteria and viruses.
• Decagon Devices (www.decagon.com) captured the 2007 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award for its AquaSorp Isotherm Generator. A moisture sorption isotherm for a food product is the relationship between water activity (aw) and moisture content at a given temperature. This relationship is complex and unique for each product due to different interactions between the water and the solid components at different moisture contents. Isotherms are important for new product development, ingredient research, shelf-life determination, and to fully understand the moisture within a product.
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The AquaSorp IG instrument determines isotherms quickly and automatically. It directly measures aw using the company’s patented chilled-mirror dewpoint technique. Desorption and adsorption are achieved by flowing wet or dry air, respectively, and moisture loss and gain are determined by weight changes. The instrument generates the complete absorption and desorption isotherms in about 24 hr with >50 points on each isotherm curve. This technique is much faster than other methods because the sample does not have to equilibrate to a known humidity level.
"Real-time solution for common analytical test; interesting technology that improves speed and accuracy of test," noted a juror.
• Dow Chemical Co. (www.fortefiber.com) was honored for its Fortefiber soluble dietary fiber. Derived from cellulose, the 100% dietary fiber product offers a combination of functional and health benefits. Clinical studies on the product have demonstrated significant lowering of blood glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels.
"This is a significant innovation that has the potential to add dietary fiber to a wide range of food and beverage products that could have significant public health benefits in the important area of obesity. The practical application of this technology will be supported through the development of a new analytical method for measuring dietary fiber. The submission shows a high level of scientific merit," stated a juror. Another juror declared, "This ingredient can be used in a variety of products to increase fiber content without sacrificing taste and texture."
The fiber products are non-allergenic and non-fermentable at typical use levels. Applications range from drinks and energy bars to candy and supplements.
In conjunction with Fortefiber, Dow researchers also developed a new analytical method to determine the dietary fiber content of foods and nutritional supplements. This method—validated by AOAC International—enables food formulators to include the amount of soluble dietary fiber on their finished products’ Nutrition Facts panel.
• Ocean Optics (www.oceanoptics.com) won the award for its RedEye Oxygen Patch. The instrument measures oxygen non-invasively in food and beverage packaging. The sensor is typically integrated into the inside of the package during the packaging manufacturing process, and when used with a blue LED and fluorometer, it will quantitatively report the amount of oxygen in the package. "An innovative development of a sensor that can be applied to packaging to monitor an important organoleptic and/or microbiological shelf-life indicator—oxygen," stated a juror.
The device can also be introduced into a package post-production for R&D purposes as self-adhesive acrylic patches using one of three coating formulations. One coating formulation can monitor low levels of oxygen in gas (0.005%) and dissolved oxygen in liquids (20 ppb); another sensor coating can monitor oxygen in non-aqueous vapors and solutions and is ideal for use with oils and alcohols; the third coating is a good general-purpose solution for benign gases, liquids, and gels.
2008 Food Expo Innovation Awards
Information about next year’s competition—open only to exhibitors at the 2008 IFT Food Expo in New Orleans—will be available on IFT’s Website (www.ift.org) early next year.
by Bob Swientek is Editor-in-Chief, Food Technology ([email protected]).