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The IFT17 annual event in Las Vegas last month was framed around the theme “Go With Purpose”. IFT President John Coupland reminded attendees of the importance of that theme at the Awards Celebration that officially kicked off IFT17, which took place Sunday to Wednesday, June 25–28. Coupland urged those on hand for the Awards Celebration to “take a moment and reflect on your purpose here.”
Most would agree that IFT17 was a purpose-driven event for the 19,000-plus attendees from 84 countries who arrived in Las Vegas seeking to learn more about the latest science in educational sessions, discover ingredient and equipment innovations at the food expo, and network with food industry colleagues and friends. IFT17 also boasted a special highlight in the form of IFTNEXT programs and events designed to foster creative thinking. “IFTNEXT is about challenging us all to think big and bold … push boundaries through a thoughtful transdisciplinary approach that welcomes new, provocative, and future-forward ideas to inspire and propel innovative solutions to global food challenges,” said Coupland. IFTNEXT programs at IFT17 included presentations, panel discussions, and more as well as a Start-Up Alley of dedicated exhibit space for cutting-edge entrepreneurs.
IFTNEXT is made possible through the generous support of Ingredion, IFT’s Platinum Innovation Sponsor.
But now back to the Awards Celebration. Speaking there, IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Deanreflected on some of the association’s recent achievements, including the advent of a revitalized membership model designed to more directly address member needs. She also thanked Coupland for his service and commitment, including his particular dedication to raising the profile of the science of food.
Several members of the IFT leadership team joined Coupland on stage to receive a bit of recognition of their own and then to assist in presenting awards. Coupland singled out IFT Immediate Past President Colin Dennis, citing his contributions to IFT’s robust new strategic planning process and the development of the IFT promises of develop, network, innovate, and advocate.
Coupland also welcomed IFT President-Elect Cindy Stewartto the stage, where she was later joined by President-Elect Designate Michele Perchonok.
The highest honor of the evening, the 2017 Nicolas Appert Award, went to Purdue University professor Jozef L. Kokini. Kokini has held prominent positions at the University of Illinois and Rutgers University in addition to Purdue. His research focuses on rheology, extrusion, materials science, and engineering properties of food materials.
Additional Achievement Awards recognizing singular achievements in research, applications, and service to the profession were presented. The 2017 Achievement Award winners, from left, in are Eric Decker, University of Massachusetts; S. Suzanne Nielsen, Purdue University; Gustavo V. Barbosa-Cánovas, Washington State University; V. M. “Bala” Balasubramaniam, The Ohio State University; Francis F. Busta, University of Minnesota (emeritus); P. Michael Davidson, University of Tennessee (emeritus); Christopher Doona, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center; Emmanuel Hatzakis, The Ohio State University; Manjeet Chinnan, University of Georgia (emeritus); Michael O’Mahony, University of California, Davis (emeritus); Soo-Yeun Lee, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Jozef L. Kokini, Purdue University; Louise Wicker, Louisiana State University; and Joseph Jen, California Polytechnic State University (emeritus). Not pictured is Guy H. Johnson, Johnson Nutrition Solutions.
Members of the 2017 Class of IFT Fellows, who were celebrated for their extraordinary qualifications and contributions to the profession, are pictured in. They are, from left, MaryAnne Drake, North Carolina State University; Beverly Tepper, Rutgers University; Rotimi Emmanuel Aluko, University of Manitoba; Claire Koelsch Sand, Packaging Technology and Research; Geoffrey Smithers, GWS Food Industry Consulting Services; Gordon Smith, Kansas State University; Tara McHugh, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; and Bo Jiang, Jiangnan University.
Shantrell Willis, a graduate student at Alabama A&M University and an active volunteer in both IFT and IFTSA, was the recipient of the Excellence in Leadership Graduate Award. Another dedicated volunteer, Laura Borovilos, a student at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, was presented with the Excellence in Leadership Undergraduate Award.
Amadeus Driando Ahnan, a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was honored for his first-place win in the Journal of Food Science Education’s annual Food Science in Action video competition, which asked students to investigate a food science mystery.
Awards Celebration recognition also included the IFT Media Award for Excellence in Consumer Journalism presented to freelance health and wellness writer Marygrace Taylor.
Five young professionals from around the world were honored with the Emerging Leaders Network Award. Presented for the first time this year, the award acknowledges emerging leaders in the science of food who have demonstrated high potential for success in leadership roles and a strong commitment to the profession. The 2017 honorees are, from left, Akshay Kumar Anugu, Ingredion; Bicheng Wu, Ingredion; Diane M. Schmitt, Wegmans Food Market; Jean Pankuku, Universal Industries; and Roasalee Helberg, Chapman University.
Immediately after the Awards Celebration, the festivities continued at the Welcome Reception. The reception is always a fun time, but this year’s event had a special feature. In a nod to the Las Vegas destination, Elvis (AKA IFT President John Coupland) made a surprise appearance to mix and mingle with the crowd; here he poses with Catherine Cutter of Pennsylvania State University.
Also recognized at the Awards Celebration were the volunteers who make up the IFT Board of Directors. Members of the board met just prior to the start of IFT17 and during the course of that meeting took time out for an official photograph. Pictured in, front row, from left, are Sarah Kirkmeyer, Carolyn Fisher, IFTSA President-Elect Morgan Von Staden, IFT President-Elect Designate Michele Perchonok, IFT President-Elect Cindy Stewart, IFT President John Coupland, IFT Immediate Past President Colin Dennis, IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean, IFTSA President-Elect Designate Elizabeth Clark, IFT Treasurer Robert Gravani, and Chris Findlay. Back row, from left, are Jonathan Gray, Chris Downs, Scott Lineback, Roger Lawrence, Dawn Merrill, IFTSA Immediate Past President Amy DeJong, Lauren Shimek, Sharrann Simmons, Soo-Yeun Lee, Vickie Kloeris, Pam Coleman, R. Paul Singh, Feeding Tomorrow Chair Noel Anderson, IFTSA President Matt Teegarden, Robert McGorrin, and Bryson Bolton.
Many volunteers celebrated the Elvis/Vegas connection during IFT17, posing with pop-up Elvis figures that turned up at various locations throughout the event. Posing with The King in are, from left, IFT President-Elect Cindy Stewart, Feeding Tomorrow Chair Noel Anderson, and IFT Past President Robert Gravani.
Thinking Big at IFT17
Sharing ideas is at the core of every annual event, and featured sessions at IFT17 were dedicated to delivering on that, starting with a Monday morning panel discussion titled “Processed Foods: The Good, the Bad, and the Science” moderated by award-winning journalist Tamar Haspel. Participating panelists included obesity expert and medical doctor Yoni Freedhoff, Cargill R&D vice-president Chris Mallett, historian Rachel Laudan, and consultant Richard Black.
Tuesday morning’s featured session was a true crowd pleaser—a screening of the IFT-commissioned documentary film Food Evolution, a powerful exploration of the polarizing debate about the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) designed to promote a rational dialogue about the use of sound science. Audience members responded enthusiastically to the documentary, delivering a standing ovation when two key scientific sources featured in the film, Alison Van Eenennaam, a University of California, Davis, animal genomics and biotechnology specialist, and Emma Naluyima, a veterinarian and award-winning small farmer in Uganda, took the stage for a discussion after its conclusion along with Food Evolution director Scott Hamilton Kennedyand writer/producer Trace Sheehan.
On Monday afternoon, TED Senior Fellow and scientist, professor, and entrepreneur Andrew Pellingpresented a featured session titled “A Conversation With Andrew Pelling” that explored his unique approach to research, which celebrates the value of scientific curiosity unhindered by the requirement that it address a particular application.
Pelling’s talk was presented under the IFTNEXT banner, as were a series of other thought-provoking talks and panel discussions that took place on the IFTNEXT stage located in the space outside the exhibit hall.
In participants in a session titled “Design Thinking for Food” take a hands-on approach to a rapid prototyping exercise. In participants in a panel discussion on “Ideal Food Material Specification” invite questions from the audience. And in audience members in an interactive discussion on GMOs give the topic some serious consideration.
So Much to Learn at IFT17
Scientists and other industry experts from around the globe participated in IFT scientific and applied sessions that addressed topics ranging from pathogen prevention to plant-based diets.
The IFT17 learning started early with a series of nine pre-event short courses, including the always popular and often interactive Food Science for the Non-Food Scientist. A two-day Certified Food Scientist (CFS) Prep Course attracted a large group of participants. In CFS prep course instructor Eric Greenberg explains concepts covered on the CFS exam to attendees.
And speaking of early learning, several 7:45 a.m. primer sessions brought early risers up to speed on topics ranging from food allergies to food labels. In Kevin Keener of Iowa State University explores the topic of cold plasma in food processing.
A series of four carefully curated Hot Topic sessions addressed high-impact trends and topics. In Jill Brigham of the Sustainable Wine & Food Processing Center at the University of California, Davis, takes part in a session on the future of water and its impact on the world. In Hannah Holscher of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign delves into the topic of gut health.
To help IFT17 attendees efficiently plan their educational agendas, scientific and applied sessions were organized within a framework of 12 tracks, including one dedicated to teaching and learning. A highlight of the program’s teaching-oriented programming was the Fennema Lectureship & Workshop, which this year featured presenter Julie Schell, a leading expert in pedagogy and learning innovation in higher education.
Printed poster presentations are a venerable tradition at the annual event, and this year there were nearly 700 poster presenters as well as 30 ePoster sessions.
Although the IFT17 sessions are over, it’s still possible to tap into the information and ideas shared at the annual event. All full-paid IFT17 registrants have complimentary access to the IFT17 session catalog, which includes audio recordings and PDF slides of 70-plus sessions, video recordings and slides of featured presentations, and more. Others may purchase access to the catalog by visiting the “Learn” section of the IFT17 website (ift.org/ift17).
Experiencing the Expo Energy
For those seeking to get a feel for the pulse of the food industry, it would be hard to find a better place to experience it than the IFT food expo, which may explain why the energy was so consistently high on the show floor in the Venetian Sands Expo Center. A total of 1,154 exhibitors showcased ingredients, equipment, and services during the three days of the expo.
More IFT17 Highlights
On the IFT17 Schedule for Students
Learning with purpose topped the agenda for the many members of IFTSA who capitalized on the IFT17 experience. The IFTSA Student Lounge, sponsored by PepsiCo, provided the ideal spot for exchanging ideas and relaxing throughout the course of IFT17.
The IFTSA Closing Ceremony held on the second-to-last day of the event is always an important gathering place for student members. IFTSA President Matt Teegarden welcomed the crowd and shared highlights of the past year. Here’s a look at some of the student-focused highlights at IFT17.
Although the summer of 2017 is far from over, next summer’s annual event—IFT18: A Matter of Science + Food—will be here before we know it. It will take place July 15–18, 2018, on IFT’s home turf of Chicago, and planning is already well underway. It’s not too early to start thinking big.