Introducing Dr. Kantha Shelke: A Speaker at the ACA World Cashew Festival and Expo 2013

The African Cashew Alliance is excited to introduce Kantha Shelke as a speaker at the ACA World Cashew Festival and Expo 2013 on 16-19 September in Accra, Ghana.  Dr. Shelke, a leading food scientist, will present during the "New Market Opportunities" portion of this year's plenary discussion.  We were lucky enough to ask her a few questions about her background and even get a sneak-peak at what she will be presenting at the conference.

Ms Shelke, can you please introduce yourself?

I am Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and a principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a food science and research firm.  My firm specializes in ingredient science, technology, and market realization with health and wellness and education as our focal points.  Chris Hewes, my co-principal at Corvus Blue and I truly look forward to visiting Ghana and working with the African Cashew Alliance to help advance cashews.

Can you briefly describe your work on the food and ingredients market? Why do you find this sector interesting on a global scale?

We work on all aspects of ingredients—for food, beverage, and dietary supplements—from identifying and creating them, to ushering them through the regulatory pipelines of selected nations, developing new products and uses, testing their performance in finished products, verifying that they indeed deliver what they promise, and ultimately, educating the trade, the media, and consumers-at-large about their use and benefits for health and wellness and market realization.

Author and farmer, Wendell Berry, said "How we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used."

Food and food ingredients are fascinating on many levels.  At the basic level, they are a source of nourishment essential for living and thriving. On a global scale, food is the foundation of political stability of nations. For one in six people around the world, food is a rare and precious commodity, often out of reach and with dire consequences. Around the world, food has many and deep social implications: it serves as a mark of culture, values or taste; as a reason for community gatherings, and as an opportunity to reinforce relationships. On a personal level, food is an integral part of one’s emotions providing temporary relief from anxiety, depression, loneliness and boredom, and inspiring joy and other positive emotions from pleasurable eating experiences.

Our work allows us to study food (and food ingredients) against the backdrop of science, health, wellness, the environment, food security, and economics. Helping advance an understanding of how these connected parts are related, and how changing one part might affect the others, is not only essential to foster change in the food system but also to advancing the lives of peoples from around the world.

What recent trends have you observed in the international snack market?

Advances in food science and technology have helped create snacks beyond one’s imagination in terms of variety, ingredients for enjoyment that is affordable and convenient.  As a result, snacking –a popular and ubiquitous practice – has been increasing across the globe without exceptions in geography, gender, or age.  Many associate snacking with overweight and obesity.

While the relationship between snacking and changes in body weight is somewhat controversial, science is discovering that some snacks like nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts) and fruits (mangoes, apples) can contribute not only to wellness but also to health.

For many—as for example, children, the elderly, and people with compromised health—snacks consumed outside of meal times contribute not only energy, but also important nutrients.

Snack companies, concerned that their snack products may contribute to the incidence of overweight and obesity, are looking into a variety of approaches to advance healthy eating and bodyweight reduction.

Appetite control is an area of weight management that is receiving increasing attention and nuts like cashew are likely to grow in popularity not only with consumers but also with product developers seeking to make healthy snacks that are tasty and satisfying.

Nuts also stand to benefit from the fact that they are loved universally and can easily complement a number of foods and flavors and may be eaten at all times of day and night and with all cuisines.

As a result, we see these trends in the healthy snack sector and many of these favor foods like cashew:

Lower junk calories: fat reduction, baking, popping, roasting instead of frying

Nutrient benefits: protein, fiber, probiotic, omega-3s

Energy-rich: caffeine, vitamins, amino acids,

Ingredients: whole grain, oats, avocado, hummus (beans), nuts

Clean labels: natural, organic, smart, kosher, vegan, gluten-free

We are very excited to have you speak at this year’s ACA World Cashew Festival. Can you please give a brief intro to what topics you will be covering?

The presentation will address market forces—health activists, regulatory changes, media—driving the improvement of all foods including breakfast foods and snack foods. I will provide a brief peek into the market outlook for categories of foods that are growing rapidly around the world.