As my year as IFT President approaches its conclusion, it seems appropriate to reflect on the progress we have made.

The first of five goals for the year was to establish the structural framework for IFT to develop and deliver high quality continuing education programs in response to the defined needs of the membership. We have made significant progress on this goal, with the creation of the new Continuing Education Advisory Committee. This committee has worked closely with the staff in the development and delivery of four new courses during the past year. In addition, seven Webcasts were launched.

The second goal was to stabilize the current IFT membership decline and create an appropriate environment for membership recruitment and retention, while enhancing membership satisfaction. After several years of continuous decline in membership, it appears that we have begun to reverse the trend. We have also completed a study of IFT members and nonmembers associated with food science and technology. The results indicate that the key concerns of members and non-members are keeping up with government regulations; dealing with regulatory agencies; food labeling; educating consumers; complying with government regulations; increasing costs; time management; quality control; and attracting and retaining quality employees. The results also suggest that the most compelling reasons to belong to IFT are networking and receiving up-to-date information about our profession. Given these insights, we can develop appropriate approaches to communicate the value of IFT membership to our current members and potential new members.

The third goal was to mobilize the resources of IFT in becoming proactive in communication of food science information to multiple audiences. Our Food Science Communicators and staff have continued to create significant numbers of media placements and audience impressions. Even with these impressive results, we must make IFT and the food science and technology profession even more visible to the media as the first source of scientific information about food. We need to become more proactive in communicating the latest food science information, and we believe our entire membership can participate in these efforts.

The fourth goal was to increase the visibility and understanding of the food science profession among audiences critical to the future of IFT through an organized marketing program. The programs and materials developed in collaboration with Discovery are wonderful examples of the potential for delivery of a message to audiences outside our immediate circle.

We have continued to reach out to new and diverse audiences through distribution of our award-winning Careers in Food Science brochure, our involvement in the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences career fair and training conference, the marketing of the IFT Annual Meeting & Food ExpoSM to nonmembers, and our Train the Trainer program, in which our members demonstrate food science experiments to high school science teachers.

The fifth goal was to strengthen strategic alliances among organizations with interests in food and the role of food science in the food system. IFT is working with the American Society for Nutrition and the International Food Information Council to advance the dialogue between food science and nutrition professionals and ultimately affect nutrition policies, public health, and research opportunities. The first recommendation from this working group is to sponsor a research proposal–writing workshop in 2008. Ultimately, the research to be funded will focus on the interface between nutritional science and food science.

IFT and the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology are planning a fourth food summit, to be held in Huangzhou, China, in November. A Chinese delegation attended the IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo last month.

In addition to these activities, our new governance structure will provide members with expanded opportunities to interact with IFT’s leadership and help influence IFT’s future direction. The annual Strategic Leadership Forum and the new Town Hall sessions are just two of the opportunities for direct member interaction with our Board of Directors. We are also beginning efforts to more effectively utilize the expertise in our Divisions and Sections and ensure that members in every sector of IFT can contribute.

In closing, it has been a rewarding year for me! The many opportunities I have had to interact with members throughout the world have provided unique insights into our profession and the role of IFT. As we move forward, the special relationship between IFT and the food science and technology profession will continue to grow.

by Dennis R. Heldman,
IFT President, 2006–07
President, Heldman Associates, Weston, Fla. 
[email protected]