This year’s NAFFS Annual Convention, like so many other events in 2020, was converted to a virtual event in the face of COVID-19. Despite the change in format, the spirit of the event remained unchanged with members of the flavor industry coming together to network, educate and learn.
The three-day event featured presentations from top professionals in the industry as well as some fun, interactive points of engagement that helped to maintain the comfortable and camaraderous feel that NAFFS events are known for.
Day one kicked off with a brief membership meeting and welcome note from Bob Zak, convention chair, followed by “The Story of Flavors: A Historian’s Take on the ‘Flavors of Tomorrow’ and Why They Matter Today” presented by Dr. Nadia Berenstein, flavor historian. Dr. Berenstein covered the trends in futuristic ideas spanning from “The Golden Age of Processed Food” in the 1950s and 1960s through to the natural, organic and better-for-you trends of today.
The second speaker of the event was Phil Jones, partner at Mazars, who discussed aspects of risk, coverage and mitigation in “Security of Third Parties & Vendors.”
Chef Nicola of Momento Restaurant closed out the first day of the event with “The Evolution of Flavors: Transforming Favorites of Yesterday into the Expectations of Today.” Chef Nicola shared demonstrations of some of Momento Restaurant’s offerings while sharing insights on the evolution of ingredients, molecular gastronomy, food trends and the power of impression.
The second day of the event featured a presentation from Dr. Grant DuBois, chief scientific officer at Almendra, entitled “Clean-Label & Cost-Effective Sweetener Taste Modulators.” Dr. DuBois detailed the metrics for commercial viability of a sweetness modulating ingredient, which included safety, taste quality, stability, solubility, cost effectiveness, patentability and consumer acceptability.
This was followed by the Legal & Regulatory update, delivered by Patrick McNamara, partner at Scarinci Hollenbeck, which included information on recalls, court outcomes and new lawsuits, updates to legislature and, of course, the impact of COVID-19 on the industry.
Day two closed out with a presentation from Brian Briggs, CEO of National Flavors, entitled “M&A in the Food and Beverage Segment.” Briggs outlined the historical food and beverage transaction volumes as well as the impact of COVID-19 and the lessons learned, so far, from navigating amidst a pandemic.
The final day of the event started off with “Regulatory Education—Anywhere, Anytime with e-Learning,” presented by Nancy Higley, president of Regulatory Connections, LLC. Higley detailed the benefits and value of e-learning, e-books, microlearning and gamification in a world where distance education is becoming the norm.
This was followed by a presentation from Richard Pisano, Jr., president of Citrus & Allied Essences, entitled “Risk Management in Natural Products Procurement,” in which he emphasized the importance of diversifying supply streams across hemispheres and maintaining a buffer of raw materials inventory for periods of uncertainty.
Preceding the final speaker of the event was the presentation of the NAFFS scholarship by Herschel Johnson and Dr. Sue Percival of the University of Florida.
The final presentation was delivered by Debra Bachar, president of Blueberry Business Group, entitled “Food Trends and their Flavors for the Future: Where Do We Go from Here? The Business of Food & Flavor Trends and How Product Innovation Plays a Role in a Post-COVID World.” Bachar dove into the uncertainties of the current climate and offered a range of plausible scenarios from which plans could be formulated, as well as the trends which have remained unchanged and even bolstered as a result of COVID-19, including functional benefits and concerns around ethical consumptions.