For years, I’d heard about it – FNCE, the annual gathering of some 10,000 dietitians, where the sciences of dietetics and nutrition, the food pyramid and food policy and increasingly, practice, technology and diet/lifestyle converge into an annual gathering (plus a little social).
I finally had the opportunity to attend the Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo in Philadelphia last week, and came away thoughtful, excited and energized at the conversations I had while representing our single ingredient associations, and perhaps more broadly, the healthy ingredients ‘space’, on the show floor. (I stipulate ‘show floor’ as I did not participate in any of the conference sessions).
We at TTC came armed with our objectives, which very carefully planned out in a pre-show meeting. We were representing a few of our groups, the Global Prebiotic Association (GPA), Coconut Coalition of the Americas (CCA), and in minor capacity, the Global Curcumin Association (GCA), in each case discussing association priorities and talking points, centered generally around the science. With CCA, we had the additional objective to solicit support for our upcoming Citizen’s Petition to the FDA to change the current guidance that has coconut mistakenly classified as a tree-nut for allergen purposes. I’m pleased to say that our objectives for the entire show, in all cases, were surpassed in the morning of the first day.
This audience was insatiably curious and highly engaged. From students to educators to dietitians in both clinical and institutional settings, our conversations were high energy, open, and from time to time, really provocative and challenging.
For the prebiotics market, our engagement approach was around learning about prebiotics and our new infographic resource. Almost universally, that message resonated, and we were generally able to go through both food sources and more, including common nutrition gaps. Again, in most cases, the appetite for additional information was significant.
For coconut, our strongest message, as noted, was the allergen issue. Here, response was absolutely amazing with many within this community wanting to sign-on in support of our project. Dietitians also refreshingly understood the unique composition of coconut oil and why it deserves a place in the diet.
The FNCE show floor was also interesting, and a truly stark contrast from the SupplySide one of a week earlier. It was an interesting mix of big consumer brands like Pepsico and Mondelez, to those strong in the universe of nutrition such as Nestle and Abbott, to our ingredient friends from Cargill and DSM, all the way to established and new brands catering to the specialty food universe with plant-based alternatives and fruit center products. Throw in a couple meat companies, some tech (like Day 2) and practice planning groups, a couple government agencies, several local universities and you have one of the most diverse floors I’ve seen in recent years.
Overall, the 3 days we spent at the event had high ROI. Follow-ups have begun and the engagement and curiosity is so high, it’s our booth visitors that have proactively triggered the bulk of the follow up already.
We’ll be back next year for sure.