Jeannie Houchins

As IFT’s new Director of Media Relations, I am coming into a well-established organization with an incredible, near-70-year history of achievements. My goal is to raise the visibility of IFT with the media and, ultimately, consumers. One key ongoing challenge is keeping up with the pace of the electronic news-gathering process. But IFT is uniquely positioned to help the media and the consuming public understand the science behind food through its publications, programs, and events.

There have been several opportunities to reach out to help educate the public with food news that consumers can use. For example, another successful Annual Meeting & Food Expo® closed in July, and I am delighted to say that we have had an eventful quarter from a media relations standpoint. As in previous years, this year in New Orleans, IFT welcomed media from around the world. This included CMP Media from Japan, New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology magazine, and Italian Food Technology magazine.

In total, nearly 100 media professionals signed up for IFT’s Annual Meeting & Food Expo. As a result, IFT distributed 13 news releases, garnered more than 2 million impressions and more than 75 news stories thus far in both online and print media, and we’re still counting. Highlights included the following.
• We established relationships with a few of the most widely read consumer publications like Cooking Light magazine and Men’s Health.

IFT Spokesperson Roger Clemens talked about food innovation on the Food Expo show fl oor. In addition, Expo Innovation award winners received additional recognition for their work. This interview continues to receive publicity since it appears on the Web site.

• John Floros, 07–08 IFT President, discussed cultivating food science interest and talent in an interview on a food news Web site.

• IFT Cares, an effort to help those in need, was a great success as we helped to fi ght hunger in South Louisiana by working with Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. A food news Web site interviewed Lam Hood, an Emeritus Professional Member of IFT and IFT Cares Project Leader, and Kelley Ahuja, IFT Chief Administrative Officer, and captured their thoughts on what it means to be connected to a community.

In addition to conducting on-site interviews, media professionals attended scientific sessions. The Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ leading newspaper, attended the session titled “Consumers’ Refrigerators: A Danger Zone,” which resulted in a piece about refrigerators and the risks associated with inadequate temperatures. As a bonus, the article featured IFT Student Association  President Yifat Yaniv, who shared her thoughts on the value of IFT and the Annual Meeting to students interested in expanding their career opportunities.

Other topics that generated media interest included natural and organic food, mushrooms as the new superfood, and healthy consumer messages.

Media interest in food science and IFT continues to flourish after the Annual Meeting. This summer brought more than 11 million media impressions, namely as a result of an article about the role meat marinades can play in preventing the formation of carcinogens from the August 2008 issue of Journal of Food Science. Print and online placements include, Contra Costa Times,, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Tribune, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, among many others. The journal article drummed up more than 25 broadcast placements, including WNYW New York, a FOX affiliate, and WMAQ Chicago, Ill., an NBC affiliate, each generating more than 1 million in audience reach. Lastly, KDKA AM radio in Pittsburgh, Pa., interviewed meat marinade researcher J. Scott Smith and reported on the study’s key points.

Food and health are always good topics for the media, but so is the rising cost of food. An article from the Chicago Tribune discussed how some food companies are dealing with rising prices with food packaging measures such as shrinking the physical size and looking into more cost-effective materials. IFT member Joseph Hotchkiss lent his packaging expertise to the reporter and noted that this practice will continue to be a focus for companies. This article proved to be timely for readers since it was picked up by other news outlets in Buffalo, N.Y., Denver, Colo., and St. Louis, Mo.

In addition to topics, the news cycle focuses on timeliness of stories. IFT often works with news rooms that produce stories that are released in time frames that vary widely—ranging from hours to months.

Food will always be an important topic, and I am optimistic that IFT’s continued media outreach will be a success. I look forward to working with talented food scientists and media professionals to educate the public on all things food.

by Jeannie Houchins, M.A., R.D.,
Director of Media Relations
[email protected]