Janet Cassidy

CIFT highlights food’s path from farm to plate

The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) recently held its annual Ohio Food Industry Expo. Attendees included food manufacturers, scientists and growers, legislators, economic development partners and food industry service providers.

In case you’re unfamiliar with CIFT, they’re an organization in northwest Ohio that encourages economic development by providing technical innovations and solutions for the food processing and agricultural industries. In other words, they help food and agricultural businesses grow.

This is one of my favorite conferences each year. I attend because part of my Farm Bureau duties include building relationships with members of Ohio’s food chain. But personally, I’m a food wonk who gets a kick out of boning up on consumer food trends, learning of emerging technologies and hanging out with really smart food professionals (Wendy’s people sitting one table away!)

While I know Ohio is home to major food manufacturers: Dannon, Heinz, Campbell’s, Pillsbury, Smucker’s etc., I didn’t know Ohio ranks:

– Third in the nation in bakery products

– Second in ketchup production

– First in frozen foods (Yay for frozen pizzas!)

Transparency and cooperation were mentioned several times throughout the conference. “Think how long you’ve been able to go to Wendy’s and get a hamburger for 99 cents,” said Ed Medlock, of Wendy’s Quality Supply Chain Co-Op, Inc. referencing the ability to continue to offer that item despite rising food costs. Medlock said that Wendy’s relies on a strong supply chain to control costs. The company has a cooperative relationship with their suppliers, who are required to be transparent in production methods and business costs including raw materials, processing, freight and logistics.

The conference reminded me that food takes many paths to reach my plate. While I love tomatoes out of my garden, I also appreciate a good frozen pizza occasionally. And I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the people that work to provide it to me.