Bringing together diverse stakeholders from all areas of the food industry, Food Vision USA blew through Chicago in early November.  On the heels of the American presidential elections, many people had the question on their minds: “What’s Next?” – both in the global sense, as well as in the day-to-day lives of those of us working in the food industry.  Food Vision USA aimed to answer those questions and more during interactive, thought-provoking and relevant sessions for two and a half days at the Drake Hotel.

Personalized Nutrition:  Take a Selfie from the Inside

Consumer confusion due to conflicting scientific studies is one of the greatest struggles we face in nutrition communication.  We hear it all the time:  “one day carbs are good for you, the next day they are not.” This often results in information fatigue and people tuning out all nutrition messages and giving up.  But, what if both are actually true, it just depends on who you are talking to?  We all are individual with our own individual needs, but yet nutrition guidance has faced the limitations of needing to be generalized for all populations.  Enter “personalized nutrition” which aims to use technology to determine nutrition needs for individuals.

So, the case for personalized nutrition has been made and there are many new players in the market.  One of the challenges is deciding which are legitimate and which are just jumping on the “hottest trends” bandwagon?  Two companies made their pitch at Food Vision USA:  Lili Segal, an Israeli entrepreneur from Day Two and Rony Sellam, from InsideTracker.  Day Two looks at the gut microbiome to determine how individuals’ blood sugar is impacted by their diet.  InsideTracker takes “a selfie from the inside” using blood samples to offer ultra-personalized guidance on nutrition, supplements, exercise and lifestyle.

Trailblazers:  Next Generation Entrepreneurs Take Center Stage

A highlight of the conference was being a “fly on the wall” as three young entrepreneurs pitched themselves to top-level investors including John Haugen from 301 Inc at General Mills and Seth Goldman from Honest Teas. A Brooklyn-based biotech firm Afineur highlighted how microbial biodiversity can contribute to increased taste and health benefits in products such as fermented coffee.  Bringing a taste of Hawaii and the powerful antioxidant qualities of māmaki, Bella Hughes shared her new tea brand, Shaka Teas.  And making snacking healthier with chick pea puffs, Italian entrepreneur Livio Bisterzo shared his company Green Park Brands and the uber-hip HIPPEAS snack brand.  While all great products, the investors reminded the entrepreneurs to keep national distribution strategy and differentiators top of mind.  Oh yes, and also, always have samples in hand!

There were many other great sessions looking at the progressive consumer, how food industry can work to support consumers and how to change perception to improve eating behaviors.  Several sessions looked at new ways to garner consumer opinions from sending product boxes to consumers to get their feedback with Love with Food to hosting in-home wine parties to get the scoop.  For more on Food Vision USA or other Food Vision conferences taking place in London and Singapore, check out Food Vision Events.

Post by Julie Meyer, RDN