Food companies are constantly on the prowl for innovations to improve operating efficiencies, create successful new products, and establish new business growth platforms. To do so, many companies have dedicated “open innovation” teams that scout novel and promising ideas from suppliers, academia, entrepreneurs, independent researchers, and others—a daunting task in a global marketplace. Through its annual Food Expo Innovation Awards competition, IFT has reduced some of the legwork in identifying top innovations for food manufacturers.
For the 2012 Food Expo Innovation Awards program, a panel of nine jurors from industry, academia, and government with broad expertise in research & product development, processing & packaging technology, and food safety reviewed 44 qualified entries and selected four companies and their innovations for a Food Expo Innovation Award.
Only companies exhibiting at the 2012 IFT Food Expo in Las Vegas were eligible. Judging criteria included degree of innovation, technical advancement, benefits to food manufacturers and consumers, and scientific merit.
IFT President-Elect John Ruff and incoming President-Elect Janet Collins announced and presented the four companies with their 2012 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award at the keynote session of the 2012 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo®. The winners are Advantix Systems, Ampac, Ecolab, and Glanbia Nutritionals.
“The Food Expo Innovation Awards are a showcase for amazing advancements made in our profession,” said Ruff.
Advantix Systems (http://www.advantixsystems.com) garnered the 2012 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award for its liquid desiccant dehumidification and cooling technology, which reduces energy use by 50%. The technology uses liquid desiccant, which is a natural salt solution that absorbs moisture directly from the air. By utilizing the solution’s natural affinity for moisture, air can be dehumidified without the need to overcool or post-cool the air as required by conventional approaches. The desiccant is also a natural disinfectant, removing almost all airborne bacteria and microorganisms in a single pass and improving air quality.
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At a German manufacturer of sausage casings, temperatures in the production room can reach about 86°F and humidity levels can rise to as high as 85% during the summer months. To avoid mold and mildew growth, the plant must stop production periodically until conditions improve. Installation of the liquid desiccant dehumidification technology at the plant has maintained a temperature and relative humidity level of 71°F and 50% R.H. and has eliminated production stoppages.
“The brine solution approach is a great application of old technology,” stated a juror. “It’s very useful for energy conservation.”
Ampac (http://www.ampaconline.com) won the award for its No. 2 pouch. The recyclable packaging (No. 2 triangle label) is made from a coextruded film blend of predominantly high-density polyethylene (HDPE) that yields a pouch with excellent stiffness and strength characteristics as well as high barrier to moisture and excellent puncture resistance. It is designed to be compatible with existing post-consumer recycled waste streams, such as retail plastic grocery sacks. The stand-up pouch also saves energy to produce, since it does not require a separate laminating step. It can be surface printed using high-definition graphics, which improve shelf impact.
“In addition to recyclability, the pouch provides a high barrier to moisture and excellent puncture resistance for greater product protection,” observed a juror. Another juror stated, “It is a great development, allowing for recycling.”
Ecolab (www.ecolab.com) was honored for its RAC residual antimicrobial coatings program, which consists of EPA-registered products that enhance food safety by providing improved microorganism control of plant nonfood contact environmental surfaces.The products are ready-to-use and can be applied with spray, roller, or brush to provide residual sanitizing activity on environmental surfaces.Proper application of the products can reduce 99.9% or 3 log reduction of pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella enteric, and Staphylococcus aureus. In addition to controlling pathogens, the RAC products can inhibit mold growth up to 30 days on nonporous surfaces and up to 14 days on porous surfaces.
The products can be applied to metal, plastic, ceramic, wood, and sealed concrete. They can be removed by rinsing with water or peeling them from applied surfaces. Film thicknesses can range from 5 to 25 microns; porous surfaces may require multiple coats.
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One juror called the residual antimicrobial coatings program “a promising solution for food plant sanitation.”
Glanbia Nutritionals (http://www.glanbianutritionals.com) captured the 2012 IFT Food Expo Innovation Award for its Optisol 2000 binding system for sugar reduction. The binding system is a milk protein concentrate that can reduce sugar usage up to 50% in many food applications, such as baked and chewy-type granola bars, cereal clusters, and other snack products. In reduced-sugar applications, OptiSol 2000 functions to bind water and maintain a sticky matrix in food products. The clean-label ingredient contributes protein to the formulation and enables the addition of other desirable nutrients such as fiber.
“Nutritional implications are very good,” noted a juror. “The binding system allows significant reduction in sugars without compromising quality characteristics of the food products.” “Interesting,” observed another juror, “especially since it addresses issues of bulking and structure that are problematic with other high-intensity sweeteners. Novel approach using a protein.”
To learn more about the Food Expo Innovation Awards, watch videos on the companies filmed at the 2012 IFT Food Expo available at http://live.ift.org/videos
Bob Swientek is Editor in Chief, Food Technology