FNCE 2014: Perspectives From a Nutrition Communications RD
Once a year, registered dietitians (RDs) from across the world gather for the annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE®). This year’s conference drew a crowd of 9,400 attendees to Atlanta, Ga., for four days of food, nutrition education and networking.
The FNCE® expo floor is always brimming with new research, valuable materials and RD-sized food samples, but this year, exhibitors upgraded their booth presence with innovative technology. Dietitians are some of the most social media savvy influencers, and the food industry has adapted its booth presence for this audience. Many exhibitors used iPads and touch-screen televisions to engage attendees, while social media was pervasive on the showroom floor. Unique hashtags helped exhibitors expand their messaging on Twitter, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ new Social Media Hub displayed popular tweets. The #FNCE hashtag was one of the top trending topics on Twitter from October 18-21, and it was included in more than 21,000 tweets, resulting in almost 57 million impressions.
Throughout the conference, three key themes emerged. Although consumers might expect to see topics like gluten and sugar trending on this list, it feels like RDs are weary of the media’s relentless focus on these themes. Instead, dietitians are looking for the latest science on the following topics:
- Healthier Fats: This year, healthier fats dominated conversations on the showroom floor. There were more than five booths devoted to oils alone (canola, soybean, olive and coconut), and four educational sessions addressed dietary fat. In light of the November 2013 Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to ban trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils were a buzz word throughout the conference, and exhibitors were prepared to talk about the innovative ways they are replacing trans fats. The “other good fats,” including avocados, almonds, walnuts and peanuts, provided the latest research on the connection between unsaturated fat and decreased risk of chronic diseases.
- Protein/Beans: New products featured on the expo floor were often touted as high protein, an emerging topic that has (almost) replaced sugar as the media’s darling. Beans were everywhere – in hummus, pasta, crackers, meat alternatives and more.
- Farm to Fork: Dietitians and consumers alike are interested in connecting with their food – understanding where it comes from and how it was processed. The food industry has responded with a renewed transparency about the ingredients and flavors in their products, as well as their relationships with farmers, many of whom were at select booths to engage with attendees. Sustainability, feeding the world and biotechnology were key topics addressed by exhibitors on the showroom floor and agriculture experts during educational sessions.
As consumers are becoming increasingly interested in nutrition, FNCE® is one of the premiere conferences offering insight into what’s next when it comes to food. We look forward to following these top trends into 2015 and we’ll see you in Nashville next October for FNCE® 2015.