Our members are responsible for an increasingly complex global food system. They are experiencing disruptive change in the companies, educational institutions and regulatory bodies where they work and learn. As a leader in the science of food and a resource for thousands of professionals in this industry, we want to make sure IFT is even better equipped to embrace the challenges and opportunities of our changing industry and support our members with an objective voice for sound science in our global food system.
That's why IFT recently hired Maria Velissariou, Ph.D., as our new Chief Science and Technology Officer (CSTO).
The new position comes in direct response to the evolution taking place in the food industry and underscores the association's focus on how it can best serve all of its members, customers, partners, and the global food system as a whole.
As CSTO, Velissariou will provide leadership and vision for IFT’s science and policy initiatives as well as supervision of the science and policy team. She'll be responsible for all scientific and technical activities—including grant and contract work, regulations, and global scientific and technical assistance initiatives—and will ensure the Institute's development of scientific content is precisely on target to expand the knowledge and advance the careers of IFT’s nearly 17,000 members. Velissariou will also work to raise the IFT’s global visibility and scientific profile among diverse audiences by advocating sound science and its application across global food supply systems.
With more than twenty years of industry experience, Velissariou is an accomplished global leader with experience at Fortune 100 companies and $1 billion brands. Prior to joining IFT, she served as the Vice President of Nutrition R&D for Grains, Dairy, and Cohort platforms at PepsiCo.
We reached out to Maria and asked her to share some of her thoughts on the new position. Here's what she had to say:
My goals are to re-energize the role of science and its application across the entire food chain—from field to fork, so to speak—and to actively engage the entire IFT membership.
Across the food profession—be it commercial, academia, government or NGOs—we are facing tensions in our quest to feed the world. The global population continues to grow, placing heavy burdens on food security, sustainability, nutrition and health. Food supply chains are increasingly complex and not entirely efficient, with food safety and traceability being critical to public safety and business continuity. In developed markets, discerning consumers demand “clean” food, while substantial populations—mostly but not exclusively in developing markets—are preoccupied with food insecurity and affordable access to nutrition. In our social media world, sound science is not enough to successfully influence public opinion. So, we need to focus on working together to develop long-term solutions that satisfy the needs of consumers and stakeholders alike by delivering both value and values.
I have more than 20 years of experience in the food industry, and I’ve work globally and across a number of categories. What I have seen over the years is that the best solutions come when stakeholders come together to address challenges and drive for win-win solutions that serve a common vision. I believe that when we work across functions and disciplines, we can create some truly innovative and enduring solutions.
It’s also very important to me to reach out and engage the next generation of scientists and engineers who are entering our profession. How we inspire, develop and nurture this talent will determine the next generation of leaders in our profession and the future success of food.
I guess if I were to summarize my hope and ambition for this position, it is having the ability to look far and to look ahead and anticipate what’s coming, and engaging the people from across our industry to unlock long term solutions—enabled by robust science and outstanding talent
We are thrilled to be welcoming Maria to the IFT family, and we hope that you are, too!