IFT’s Food EXPO Comes to Chicago – With Salt Spheres and a Tip of the Cap

July 18, 2013

One might not think that Open Innovation and food have a whole lot in common, but I learned that’s not the case at all.  The Institute of Food Technologists’ annual showpiece, the IFT Food EXPO, was recently held at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center and I had a chance to stop by. With close to 1,200 registered exhibitors and a new record of more than 23,000 in attendance, a full 15% jump over last year, Chicago brought the crowds.

While there were definitely some exciting new technologies and ingredients (some 250 new products were reportedly unveiled) I was hoping to see some real life examples of Open Innovation in action and some disruptive technologies on display. I wasn’t disappointed, to say the least.  Here are my favorites from each category, respectively: Tate & Lyle’s SODA-LOTM, and PowerCap® Technologies’ PUSHCap.


Originally scouted from the University of Nottingham by Tate & Lyle’s Open Innovation Team, SODA-LOTM is a revolutionary new technology that delivers sodium in tiny “microspheres” resulting in the same flavor experience as regular crystallized salt but with a 30% less overall sodium intake.  Delivering the sodium flavor in a hollow sphere with a much higher surface area than a cubic salt crystal results in similar salt flavor, but the “core” of the salt crystal is not swallowed and subsequently digested.

“SODA-LOTM is a fantastic technology that we are immensely proud of having come via our Open Innovation process,” John Stewart, Open Innovation Manager at Tate & Lyle, told me. R&D is currently underway at T&L’s new state of the art test facility and North American HQ in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, with plans to improve and refine the ingredient applications of SODA-LOTM.

With the initial goal of developing a technology to increase speed-to-market for drink manufacturers, PowerCap® Technologies has delivered a plastic beverage cap with a push-type plunger that contains powdered beverage ingredients. At the consumer’s discretion, the ingredients can be released into water and shaken to provide a fresher and concentration-controlled beverage product. The caps can be sold individually for the consumer to apply to his or her own water bottle or as a more environmentally friendly beverage. Keep an eye out for this exciting technology and its impact on the highly competitive beverage market.

It was exciting to see the fruits of true Open Innovation and Tech Scouting getting sampled as well as what could be a very disruptive technology reducing the barrier to entry to the beverage market for new drink innovators. Now let’s just see if New Orleans can match Chicago’s enthusiasm as they host next year’s IFT EXPO14.



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