If you’ve been paying attention to the Food Technology cover stories in recent months, you have likely noticed that disruption is occurring in the food industry, and it’s coming from every direction. We see daily headlines about the ground shifting beneath the feet of big food incumbents and food innovation emerging from previously inconceivable spaces.
Everything is changing except for the truism that a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply for everyone in the world is essential. To accomplish this, we must advance the science of food across the global food system. Not coincidentally, these two sentences are slight variations on IFT’s vision and mission.
For IFT, our mission and vision are the connective tissue that bring into harmony the scientific disciplines, global marketplace, translational research, an intrinsic human need, and the professionals that serve that need. The alignment between science and food or “the science of food” as we call it has never been more relevant or urgent.
And you can find this connectivity at the IFT Annual Event. Although the pace may be increasing, change has been a constant part of the evolving global food system. And throughout my own career, I’ve known that my career goals and the degree to which I could bring innovative thinking to my work has required that I seek out inspiration, new knowledge, and a diverse and expanding professional network. For nearly four decades, IFT’s Annual Event has provided the annual infusion of knowledge that I needed to be part of the change occurring in our field, rather than watching from the sidelines.
In recent years, the IFT Annual Event has exploded with new content and ways to acquire and transfer knowledge. We’re not working to keep pace with the changing global food system, we’re working to drive, define, and predict that change. IFT’s Annual Event is the only one of its kind operating as a mission-driven, not-for-profit enterprise.
Ever present is the growing food expo, with sensory, nutritional, and technological innovation on display courtesy of more than 1,000 exhibitors from 27 countries. This is the largest food marketplace of ideas in the world and a microcosm of the ingredients that will formulate the global tastes and flavors of the near future. And the food expo doesn’t only consist of ingredients but also testing and laboratory equipment, packaging materials, food processing equipment, and other exciting vendors.
Beyond the expo is a world of information for every food professional, scientist, and innovator. Some of the finest scientists in the world have prepared up-to-the-minute presentations, discussions, and posters on the most current scientific and applied topics in our field. The level of scientific advancement and translational research available is second to none. And if you need information to boost your career, navigate new paradigms in our industry, and understand the career pathways that are emerging in food, think about attending the Career Development Micro Sessions.
The IFTNEXT stage is an entirely different type of information. Like the IFTNEXT articles and columns in Food Technology and the IFTNEXT newsletter, the stage by the same name focuses on linking our traditional food science disciplines in transdisciplinary discussions about topics at the very edge of our horizon, where the food system intersects with issues of extraordinary importance to the human experience. This is where we begin to see the future of our profession and the important role we’ll continue to play. The adjacent IFTNEXT Start-up Alley will present entrepreneurs operating in the furthest frontiers of innovation.
Our Featured Sessions this year have broad appeal. The remarkable and inspiring Temple Grandin will talk to us about the “Power of Difference” and remind us of the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in our profession and our lives. For the second year, the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ will bring us five of the most innovative disruptors, competing for the title of IFTNEXT Future Food Disruptor of the Year™. Finally, a panel of experts will be talking about emerging data tools that will help us predict future trends in our industry.
For every opportunity to acquire knowledge at IFT19, there will be dozens more opportunities to meet knowledgeable peers. What we commonly refer to as networking is really about mentors, job leads, old friends, new friends, collaborators, recruitment, colleagues, deals, and contacts. These relationships expand our world and professional insights and enhance our sense of belonging. IFT’s Annual Event is the best place to do this, and I invite you to join me and to actively engage in this exciting event to see for yourself all the learning possibilities at IFT19.
See y’all in New Orleans, and laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll).
Michele Perchonok, PhD, CFS
IFT President, 2018–2019