Prior to IFT’s 66th Annual Meeting + Food Expo in Orlando, the editors of Food Technology asked several IFT members with different backgrounds who had planned to attend the conference and exhibition to let us know what they found most intriguing or interesting at the exposition, scientific technical program, and/or special events. Here’s what they said.
Student Networking and Competitions
For student members of IFT, the must-see event at the Annual Meeting is the Student Association Mixer and welcome assembly. Students line up at the door for the chance to meet with old friends and network with representatives from the sponsors, PepsiCo and Frito-Lay. Free food and giveaways are an added bonus.
Students are primed for networking, as the SpeedNetworking Session precedes the mixer. This function allows students the opportunity to hone their networking skills with industry professionals and make connections with people they may be working with in the future. The mixer also allows students from different chapters to chat while checking out the posters from the Chapter of the Year Competition finalists.
After the mixer, Taylor Wallace discussed goals for his upcoming term as Student Association President. It seemed difficult for half the students in the audience to pay attention since they were nervously waiting to hear the results of the Student Association competitions. Throughout the year, the students had been working busily on their Product Development and Chapter of the Year entries, and the announcement of the winners would take place after the president’s welcome.
The attitude of the students was so overwhelming that one IFT staffer said their enthusiasm was contagious and showed just how involved the students are in IFT. The crowd really got riled up when university "fight" songs were played for each chapter competing in the College Bowl Competition.
After several nail-biting rounds of food science trivia, the University of California–Davis was announced as the winning team in the College Bowl, with the song "We Are the Champions" playing and champagne bottle corks popping in the background. This moment was especially exciting for me as a member of the UC–Davis team, who had been runner-up twice before at the national competition. The thrill of winning in front of an audience of hundreds definitely makes all the hard work worthwhile and encourages a new generation of students to get involved in Student Association competitions.
Kit Meyers, Student Member, University of California–Davis
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Pavilions, Themes, and Interactive Workshops
As I walked the Food Expo floor, some of the more notable trends that could be seen from all different types and sizes of companies were organic, health, and nutrition. Organic was seen not only in 31 booths in the Organic Food Ingredients Pavilion, but 103 additional companies were listed on the official IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo Web site for the key words "organic ingredients." These companies showed everything organic—from caramel and flavors to seasonings and cereal. With such a large presence, there is no doubt that organic is a major player in product development.
As Baby Boomers grow older, the push for healthy food choices is evident. This theme was seen throughout the exhibition, especially within the Healthy Food Ingredients Pavilion. Omega-3 fatty acids were delivered through pizza, water, meal replacement bars, and pasta. Almonds, blueberries, carrots, green tea, soy, and aloe were promoted for their functionality. The popular form of innovative delivery for many of the nutritional ingredients was encapsulation.
On the Scientific Technical Program side, the themed programming addressing Food Allergens, Bioterrorism/Food Defense, Globalization, and Functional Foods was a brilliant new concept this year. If only there was enough time to have attended some of the overlapping sessions.
"Countering Food Bioterrorism," the reality-based exercise from the Uriah Group, was a very organized, informative, and interactive session that brought all the players to the table, literally. Members of the media, retailers, academia (researchers and extension), government (local, state, and federal), laboratories, suppliers, and manufacturers were given details about an emergency incident at different intervals and had to assess the situation given the limited information each group had learned. Through communication among all of the parties, the missing pieces of the puzzle were completed and appropriate action steps were taken. Not only were the effects of a potential bioterrorism threat revealed, but there also was a greater recognition that communication is crucial among all of the different related groups in the industry.
Another workshop demonstrated food allergen testing kits. Neogen Corp., r-Biopharm, Inc., Biotrace, Tepnel BioSystems, and ELISA Systems provided the kits. Participants could make their own comparisons by doing hands-on testing. The kit manufacturers also conducted some tests. Not only was this interesting and a learning experience, but the interaction was fun, too.
Liv Bader, Member, Associate Beverage Scientist, Bacardi-Martini Product Development
Making New Contacts
On the Food Expo floor, two special-interest pavilions showcasing organic and healthy food ingredients demonstrated the importance of these emerging industry and consumer trends. The diversity and number of exhibitors created a "worldwide health and wellness ingredient grocery store"
for attendees. The exhibiting companies were eager to share information about their industries and regulations. Many of the smaller companies did not have Web sites, thus on-site discussions were helpful to expand my contacts. The variety of ingredients and flavors was astonishing!
"IFT Connect" was introduced as a networking tool for IFT members during the Annual Meeting + Food Expo. The online system was easy to use and greatly enhanced networking across all aspects of the meeting. I have made many new contacts across the food industry and will continue to do so. The staff of IFT Central was helpful in promoting and answering questions about IFT Connect.
Linda M. Voller, Member, Program Leader, Kraft Foods, Inc.