Last week, I was in Vegas for IFT17, the Institute of Food Technologists' annual show, where I saw and sampled many new variations on familiar themes. The buzzword this year is definitely "clean label," as companies and manufacturers strive to make their products healthier, but also still tasty. 

At the Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients booth, I learned that 50 percent of all sweet potatoes are grown in North Carolina, where their company is headquarted. CIFI produces both a sweet potato powder and a syrup, that can have many uses, including as a confection sweetener; both have many bakery uses, as well. 

At the Ganeden booth, the company said that they ran a study, and that both parents and millennials are willing to pay about 20 percent more for healthy products (in this case, products that contain probiotics). This doesn't surprise me: although my peers (millennials) like to try inventive foods, we are also on the lookout for easy, at-home solutions that are more clean label than what our parents grew up on, and (surprise?) we are actually reading the labels on foods and beverages that we eat and drink.

One of the more interesting booths I visited on the expo floor was that of Welch's Global Ingredients Group. Welch's is definitely a household name, but when I think of Welch's, I think of grapes (primarily, grape jelly). The Welch's team, however, has been busy cooking up some new ideas for its grapes, and I was able to sample FruitWorx (real fruit pieces/chips) as well as some chocolate-covered concoctions, which were delicious. Welch's knows its audience, as well: they know that millennials are looking for products that taste good, but also have great health benefits, so the company is striving to meet this demand. They have a quick-serve snack, too, called Nothing But the Fruit, that can be found in Target and Starbucks stores. 

Qualisoy is known for its high-oleic soybean oil, and at its booth, I was able to take a VR (Virtual Reality) tour of the farm where its soybeans are made. When I took off my VR glasses, the woman whose farm I had "been at," who was also in the VR experience, was actually sitting right next to me—jarring at first, but also an interesting surprise. Qualisoy's soybean oil can be used in many bakery applications, and I sampled one of the cupcakes that they were featuring at their booth. 

Kikkoman is another company that I associate with one particular thing (soy sauce), but at IFT, it showcased how its umami flavors can have other applications, too. I was able to try a yakinuku-flavored potato chip sample, as well as teriyaki pineapple jerky, and both were very good. Both snacks are made with Kikkoman's gluten-free less sodium teriyaki marinade/sauce, as well as its gluten-free Tamari soy sauce. 

At the AAK booth, I sampled pain du chocolat, as well as a mini classic brioche and a spiced mango cupcake with vanilla bean frosting. Some of its samples included their shortenings, specifically the cake and icing shortening (cupcake) and votated shortening (pain au chocolat), and the pain au chocolat also included its Cisao 82-85 margarine, which really surprised me, as it had a full-fat/buttery taste. 

Almost every booth I stopped by mentioned the term "clean label," and although this was unsurprising, it's refreshing to see that companies are committed to using and producing healthier ingredients, either for its own products or as an ingredients supplier. Keywords like gluten-free and "better-for-you" snacks are definitely still trending, but "clean label" doesn't always apply to either of these categories. It's great to see that companies are listening to the consumers, especially parents and millennials (and millennial parents), and trying to produce snacks that are both delcious and good for you.

Perhaps "clean label" will even become the norm, someday? Based on the offerings I saw at IFT this year, it's entirely possible.

Related: IFT17 review: Top trends and new products point toward the future of food