OVIFT Suppliers Expo 2013

By Grace Yek, July 14, 2013

If you’ve been around the culinary scene, the term mise en place probably brings out the warm fuzzies in you. Putting in place, makes perfect sense as organization goes.

Every year, in the month of April, the Ohio Valley section of the Institute of Food Technologists (OVIFT), puts in place a meeting of people, products and minds, with one common denominator – food. On April 18 this year, the OVIFT Suppliers Expo in the Savannah Center in West Chester became the gathering place for suppliers of the food industry, clients, subject matter experts, students and the occasional curious onlooker. It was a fascinating and effective dance, as people naturally found their meeting points before moving on to the next partners.

Erin Sherman, Lou Ann Underwood and Dianne Kirk from Graffiti Foods in Columbus made the trip to look for new ingredients for the soups, sauces and side dishes they make for their clients. They wanted to shop for suppliers, learn how to optimize their ingredient usage and cut costs. They looked excited to be at the Expo.

Shari Plimpton, PhD, Industry Outreach Director for the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) in Toledo, was busy getting the word out about the services CIFT offers to assist budding businesses. “CIFT is one of the best kept secrets in the food industry,” said Plimpton. CIFT supports agribusiness and the food industry through services ranging from process development to equipment design, and ultimately develops businesses in the state of Ohio.” Plimpton went on to say “CIFT has been around for 15 years and works with over 500 companies in Ohio to develop their business.”

The Expo was an international meeting ground this year as well. Hirotaka Yamashita, General Manager of Marketing & Development at Kohjin Life Sciences in Tokyo, Japan, stopped by to visit with Mitsubishi, their distributor in the U.S.

If dark chocolate flavored black tea piques your interest, you would have found Kelly Ross’ booth a delight. He represents Virginia Dare Flavors and Extracts out of Brooklyn, New York. Ross observed that the traffic at the Expo was “pretty good,” and added, “Usually if you can contact one or two potential customers, it’s worth the effort of setting up. And I’ve met a couple of people. ”

Greg J. Grisanti, Director of R&D at Frisch’s Big Boy in Cincinnati was on the hunt for new and unique ingredients which meet the challenges they encounter as they manufacture the food – soups, sauces, dressings, baked goods – for their restaurants. When asked what he thought the benefit was in attending the Expo, Grisanti summed it up, “Everything is all in one place.”

There was a steady stream of handshakes, exchange of business cards, conversations and even hugs as people met, reconnected, discussed, learned and networked. The long recognized perk of attending an Expo held true as many attendees sampled their way around the Expo and gladly picked up a few pens and bags.

A long time IFT supporter, Vincent Pasquale, the local sales representative for Accurate Ingredients, comes every year. Vince firmly believes it’s a good way to interact with customers and show new ingredients and technologies. Lisa Sanders, Culinary Technology Manager at Frutarom in Cincinnati, is another Expo veteran. “I’ve done the show for over ten years. It’s a great benefit to see the suppliers, look for new materials and for clients to come visit,” said Sanders.

Still others, like Kevin Stevens, Director of Quality Assurance at Klosterman Baking Company, came to the Expo because he got word about the Expo indirectly from his buyers. He said he’s not an OVIFT member but wanted to come to shop for potential suppliers. Amy Ott, Director of Marketing, looked forward to interacting with the suppliers and learning about new technologies that might help better market her company’s products.

Yuka Okumura, the Assistant Manager of Sales and Development of Seasonings at Takare Sake USA located in Berkeley, California, presented her company’s products with the hope and anticipation of, in her words, “getting new accounts and expanding the business.”

Amanda Warnock and Rachel Liggett from Givaudan Flavors were interested in the consumers’ perspective on health and wellness, along with sweetness and sodium reduction. They also just wanted to see what’s new with the suppliers.

When like-minded people come together in one place, the energy is off the charts. What more passionate calling than the business of food. There were 89 vendors and about 150 attendees at the OVIFT Suppliers Expo this year. Mark your calendars – next year’s Expo is set for April 17, 2014.

Grace Yek is an Assistant Professor in Culinary Arts and Science at the University of Cincinnati. She enjoys writing about the food industry in her free time.

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