In just two months, more than 23,000 science of food professionals will convene in Chicago for the largest technology- and innovation-focused food event in the world: IFT18. You should come. There is nothing else like it.
For most of us, the decision to attend the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo is not entirely our own. It hinges on budget realities, management approval, and our personal schedules.
I can’t help you with your personal schedule or budget, but I can help you with management approval. I’ve attended 26 IFT annual meetings, missing only two for personal reasons since I became a student member in 1989, and have often had to seek the approval of a manager to attend the event. Let me share some compelling arguments in your favor.
Ultimately, the case for attending IFT18 comes down to return on investment. Is the overall value of attending the event equal to or greater than the overall cost? It most assuredly is, but it depends on how you use the event to develop your skills and knowledge, network with peers to maintain existing contacts and make new ones, and seek out innovation that will shape your organization, our industry, and the profession in the future.
Attending IFT18 is akin to packing an entire year’s worth of professional development, supplier/customer relationship building, new product development, and innovation thinking into four intense days. You’ll leave Chicago exhausted but inspired by your career, your job, your future, and the important role our profession plays in providing a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply. You’ll also arrive back at work with new ideas to share with your management and colleagues—plus a stack of business cards from potentially lucrative new business contacts, customers, suppliers, collaborators, and innovators.
At IFT18, you’ll have the opportunity to visit over 1,200 booths at the food expo or choose from over 100 knowledge and learning sessions—each peer-reviewed and selected for their novel topics and innovative content. You’ll be able to visit the IFTNEXT stage to hear from some of the most forward-thinking of our professional peers. You’ll also be able to select from dozens of networking events.
One thing we know about creating a good mix of experiences at IFT’s annual event is that the content must include something that inspires, and IFT18 has that too. Watch Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank host the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge, a live competition where entrepreneurs from six food start-ups will contend for a $25,000 cash prize.
Our foundation, Feeding Tomorrow, uses the annual event to host one of its largest fundraisers. This event benefits many programs directed at bringing the best and brightest young people into our profession, rewarding their efforts, and leveraging the knowledge of our community for the greater good. IFT18 attendees will be able to participate in the IFT18 Virtual Fun Run + Fitness event to experience wellness through running, walking, or yoga while supporting important Feeding Tomorrow programs.
Whether your company or organization is looking for new customers, new suppliers, or new ideas, IFT18 is an essential part of staying on top of the innovation required to remain competitive. And if you’re looking for a new role, new learning, new contacts, new inspiration, or just want to reconnect with your colleagues, IFT18 is the best place in the world to do so.
There are a lot of food events and expos vying for the attention of professionals and companies in our field. It’s an increasingly competitive marketplace with many for-profit event companies looking to profit on the importance of our industry and profession. This should be a critical difference to attendees and exhibitors. IFT’s annual event is the only event of its kind operated by a not-for-profit organization. And the clear benefit to our members is that we reinvest income generated from the event into programs that advance science, innovation, learning, and the careers of our members.
My investment in attending 26 annual meetings has provided my career, and each organization I’ve been part of, a stellar return on investment. It’s been the place for me to present my research; organize and chair symposia and panel discussions; attend and teach short courses; develop critical relationships with customers, suppliers, and research collaborators from around the world; develop and hone my leadership skills; mentor students and new professionals; and identify new talent to bring into my organization. And four years ago, it provided me with the connection that resulted in my joining DuPont Nutrition & Health.
I encourage and invite you to join me in Chicago this July and make the IFT annual event a catalyst for a highly successful year and the career you deserve. It’s the place to be.
Cindy Stewart, PhD, CFS
IFT President, 2017–2018
Global Cultures and Food Protection Technology & Innovation Leader, DuPont Nutrition & Health, Wilmington, Del.