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7 Things to Look Forward To at IFT18

7 Things to Look Forward To at IFT18

July 11, 2018

By Mary Ellen Kuhn

Science + Food will add up to an annual event sure to be even greater than the sum of its many parts at IFT18, to be held in Chicago from Sunday, July 15, through Wednesday, July 18, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. And there are certainly many parts to IFT’s annual event, where more than 20,000 science of food professionals from around the world will gather to experience featured programming, scientific sessions, and the annual food expo showcasing 1,000-plus food industry exhibitors.

“We’ve grown!” says Kelly M. Fox, IFT senior vice president, meetings, learning, and business development. “The IFT Annual Event and Food Expo has expanded into a second hall. With more exhibitors than ever, this expansion will provide additional opportunities to learn about new products and trends.”

Let's take a quick look at some of the things you can look forward to at IFT18: 

IFTNEXT: Bigger and Bolder Than Ever

Last year brought the debut of a new suite of programs championing big, bold ideas and approaches—all under the banner of IFTNEXT. This year’s IFTNEXT programming will deliver even more of that with opportunities to experience thought-provoking presentations, discussions, and demonstrations.

IFTNEXT content is once again forward thinking and creative,” says Fox, who invites attendees to “come see how the artificial nose ‘smells’ food products and the many uses for this technology. You also won’t want to miss the Food Disruption Challenge Pitch Event. Shark Tank’s Daymond John will be hosting the finalists as they pitch their innovative start-ups for a $25,000 cash prize and a $5,000 people’s choice award. The finalists have gone through several rounds of evaluation since January and are receiving mentoring and coaching from industry professionals for the six weeks leading up to IFT18.” The $25,000 prize winner selected by the judges will be named IFT’s Future Food Disruptor of the Year™.

The pitch event will take place from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17. (Check out Brain Food's exclusive preview of the event and get to know the finalists here.)

Meanwhile, if you're looking for what’s new and what’s next in the science of food and food technology, a series of 16 dynamic sessions presented on the IFTNEXT stage in the North Hall will explore topics ranging from drones to data science, blockchain to personalized nutrition and much, much more. 

(IFTNEXT is made possible through the generous support of Ingredion, IFT’s Platinum Innovation Sponsor.)

An Expanded Expo Experience

One exhibit hall isn’t enough to contain all the IFT18 Food Expo excitement, which includes exhibitor booths, cooking demonstrations, educational programming, and more. So this year’s event will occupy two exhibit areas—both the North and South Halls of McCormick Place. The expansion ensures that there is ample space for exhibitors while also providing a home for newer features like the IFTNEXT Start-Up Alley along with longtime favorites like Innova Market Insights’ Taste the Trend Pavilion and Mintel’s Intelligence Zone.

The food expo is the industry’s largest collection of food ingredient, equipment, and services suppliers under one roof. With more than 1,000 companies on hand this summer, the food expo will be the go-to destination for sampling the latest food and beverage prototypes and learning about myriad new products and services related to the science of food and its application. Check out some of the Expo food and ingredient trends to watch out for here.

Featured Sessions

In addition to Tuesday’s Food Disruption Challenge featured session, two other featured sessions are slated for IFT18—both on Monday, July 16.

“The Human Age: Confronting the Innovation Conundrum” will get underway at 9 a.m. Monday, July 16, with a presentation by Dennis Dimick, a former environmental editor of National Geographic magazine. Dimick, who has guided many major projects over the course of a 35-year career at the magazine, will share photographs that explore the impact of human ingenuity and Earth’s ability to sustain it.

Also on the agenda for the first full day of the annual event is a panel discussion moderated by award-winning Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel. This featured session, “The Clash Between Consumer Demands and Responsible Food,” will begin at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 16. The panelists will engage in a dialogue that explores some of the challenges presented to food companies when the well-intentioned demands of consumers lead to unintended consequences, like increased food waste and fossil fuel usage or food safety threats.

A Showcase for Start-Ups

Small companies with big potential will be in the spotlight at the IFTNEXT Start-Up Alley. Start-Up Alley exhibitors represent a variety of product categories, including robotics and artificial intelligence, innovative functional ingredients, agricultural technology, and food and water security. Participating companies have all been in business for no more than five years, have sales volume of less than $5 million, and come from countries as diverse as Israel, France, Canada, Philippines, and the United States.

A Matter of Scientific and Applied Insight

Scientific and applied sessions at the annual event are the cornerstone of IFT’s educational offerings. More than 100 sessions and 800-plus technical research (poster) presentations will be on the agenda for IFT18.

A stringent peer-review process ensures that session content is relevant and high in quality. Sessions are categorized within a framework of a dozen topical tracks, making it easy for attendees to identify the content that will be of the greatest value to them.

“I’m really excited about the scientific program for IFT18, since there were so many interesting proposals from all over the world,” says Brendan Niemira, research leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Eastern Regional Research Center, who chaired IFT's Annual Meeting Scientific Program Advisory Panel (AMSPAP).

“Subject matter experts in each track reviewed and scored every submission for quality and clarity, scientific merit, and for potential interest and value to IFT18 attendees,” Niemira continues. “Then the members of AMSPAP worked with IFT staff to select the cream of the crop, work out a balanced schedule, and fine-tune the content to highlight the most relevant and impactful science. As the chair of AMSPAP, it was an honor and a pleasure to work with such a knowledgeable, dedicated, and forward-looking team of staff and volunteers.”

Among the highlights of this year’s scientific program will be a deep dive into the topic of alternative proteins on Tuesday, July 17, featuring eight hours of programming that will address various aspects of this trendy topic.

And don't forget the 600+ printed poster and digital ePoster presentations, which will feature students, academics, and industry professionals sharing their research findings over the course of the annual event.

Find a New Job (Or the Perfect New Hire!)

It’s all about making professional connections at the Career Center Live events held from Monday, July 16, through Wednesday, July 18 on the main expo floor. Career Center Live will get underway with the always popular open networking event taking place from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday. Last year the event drew more than 600 job seekers. Prescheduled interviews will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ingredion, DuPont, Kerry, Leprino Foods, and Impossible Foods are among the employers that will be represented at Career Center Live.

Social Events!

The IFT New Professionals workgroup will welcome IFT18 attendees who have been in their careers 10 years or less at at the New Professionals Mixer & Ignite Presentations. In addition to the networking and socializing that will take place, a group of professionals will share their passions related to the science of food.

Then there's the Division Networking Reception, where all are welcome to enjoy light refreshments and an open bar. This annual reception provides a great opportunity to get to know IFT’s 24 divisions and their leaders—and, of course, to network to your heart's delight.

Don't Miss Out >

NOTE: A version of this post originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of Food Technology magazine. Subscribers and IFT members can access the article here.

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