This past October, during the first-ever Food Ag Ideas Week, AURI along with partners MyFormulary and Larta Institute co-hosted a special event called The Nexus of Food & Health. Minnesota has a rich history in both food science and medical innovation and advancing functional food innovations is a perfect fit to capitalize on the expertise residing in the area.

The event brought together some of the most knowledgeable voices on a variety of topics related to the nexus space shared by food and personal health. Over the course of the day, attendees listened to presentations on everything from modeling personalized health care through big data to the exponential effect of functional food and exercise.

“This was an important event because it bridged industries and brought together scientists, physicians, chefs, entrepreneurs, investors, and healthcare executives with aligned goals for significant change and greater health outcomes,” said MyFormulary CEO Adam Southam.

The day kicked off with a live food preparation demonstration of functional food recipes by Dr. Kate Shafto and Culinary Nutritionist Jennifer Breen. Together, they shared their experiences and expertise in cooking with functional foods and the benefits of starting your day with a healthy meal.

This topic dovetailed into presentations on disease management through food and medical nutrition. Both presentations discussed how certain foods could offer a preferable form of disease management therapy, in place of some traditional medications. One highlight from this section included the participation of AURI client, Step One Foods, which has conducted clinical trials to validate their food products can successfully replace
statin medications.

“The nexus event was an important platform to highlight the efforts of functional food companies because there is a general lack of awareness about how functional foods can help manage certain diseases,” said AURI’s Executive Director Shannon Schlecht. “Highlighting these companies was a great step forward in educating people about the existence and benefits of functional foods.”

From there, the event transitioned to discussing how other industries could play a role in increasing the impact of functional foods. In the first afternoon session, health insurance executives discussed the potential future of the industry with regard to coverage of functional foods and integrative medicines.

Next up was a presentation by Recombinetics outlining the benefits of precision breeding for animals, producers and consumers. Included in this session was an overview of the current global landscape for gene-edited food products. This session was of great interest to the audience, as gene editing is a hotly debated topic among food professionals and the general public.

The final session of the day included stories of the David & Goliath variety by bringing together successful entrepreneurs from the functional food industry. They discussed their experiences, which could best be described as tales of trials and tribulations, while overcoming a variety of adversity. This session inspired the audience because it showed the combination of good products and tenacity is a recipe for success.