IFT Event Preview
Mary Ellen Kuhn

Mary Ellen Kuhn

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    Hungry for inspiration and information about the latest innovations and advances in the science of food? Eager to advance your career by making meaningful food industry connections? Looking to learn more about topics ranging from artificial intelligence to the gut microbiome? Ready to be challenged to think differently?

    Temple Grandin

    If so, then get ready for a bountiful feast of learning and discovery at the 2019 IFT Annual Event and Food Expo at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from June 2 to June5. It’s where you’ll find hundreds of exhibitors showcasing new ingredients, equipment, and services for the food industry, 100-plus educational sessions, and countless opportunities to interact and engage with the 17,000 food industry professionals who will be on hand for the event. And it all takes place against the vibrant, foodie-friendly backdrop of New Orleans.

    Not-to-Be-Missed Featured Sessions
    IFT19 programming has been carefully designed to inform and engage while inspiring creative thinking and problem-solving. To that end, the agenda includes the following three featured sessions.

    • Harnessing the Power of Difference. In this session, which begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 3, in the convention center’s La Nouvelle Ballroom, Temple Grandin, a pioneering advocate for the humane treatment of livestock, will explore the power of difference. Grandin, who is also an internationally recognized spokesperson on autism, will share her thoughts on the ways in which bringing together diverse and inclusive teams promotes innovation.

    • Emerging Data Tools and Predicting Future Trends in the Food Industry. The discussion will definitely be future-focused in this panel session at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 3, in La Nouvelle Ballroom in the convention center. Panel participants will explore how predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and other data tools are being leveraged to forecast future trends.

    The panel discussion will be moderated by Peggy Smedley, futurist and executive editor of Connected World magazine. Panelists will include futurist Tiana Holt of the Faith Popcorn BrainReserve; consumer trends expert Lu Ann Williams of Innova Market Insights; leading indicators expert Kevin Zellmer of PatSnap; growth and innovations strategist Harry Epstein of Quadrant Management Consulting and p-Chip; and venture capitalist Sanjeev Krishnan of Seed to Growth ventures.

    • IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ Live Pitch Competition. Entrepreneurship will be center stage in the convention center’s La Nouvelle Ballroom starting at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 4, when a group of five finalists in the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge vie for a $25,000 cash prize. A People’s Choice Award winner will also be selected at the fast-paced pitch event and will receive a $5,000 prize.

    The application process, which began last fall, drew participants from around the globe and included several rounds of evaluation. This year’s finalists are Chinova Bioworks from Canada, United States-based En Solucion, Gabanna from the Netherlands, Heliponix from the United States, and Yarok Microbio from Israel.

    Alon ShayaAlon Shaya, a New Orleans–based executive chef, philanthropist, and author, will serve as emcee for the pitch event. The panel of judges includes Christian Brown, managing director of NOLA Holdings; Jaime Leclerc Tulley, entrepreneur, food scientist, and food writer; Jeff Grogg, managing director, JPG Resources; Jon Atkinson, CEO, The Idea Village; Robert Lalka, executive director, Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Tulane University; and Tracy Landau, president and partner of Marketplace.

    Lee CadeskyLee Cadesky, cofounder of insect-based ingredient company C-Fu Foods and winner of the People’s Choice Award in last year’s competition, said that participating was a valuable experience. “The award and recognition we received as the People’s Choice Award recipient was outstanding, and the cash prize went to support our continuing innovating in insect ingredient technology,” said Cadesky. “IFTNEXT gave us a megaphone to blast a new message to future customers, partners, and fellow innovators.”

    The Food Disruption Challenge is sponsored by Curion and The Annex by Ardent Mills.

    IFTNEXT Stage Programming
    IFTNEXT Stage Programming

    A Look at What’s NEXT
    Knowing what’s new and what’s next is essential for everyone involved in the science and business of food, and IFT19 offers an ideal forum for delivering those insights: IFTNEXT stage sessions scheduled for Monday, June 3, through Wednesday, June 5. Billed as “critical conversations, presentations, and innovation inspiration,” these 17 sessions will touch upon topics ranging from blockchain to robotics, and the stage is conveniently located on the food expo floor. For a detailed schedule of IFTNEXT stage programming, Refer the table.

    Startup Alley• Start-Up Alley. Another IFTNEXT feature at the annual event is Start-Up Alley, which is a dedicated exhibit area for entrepreneurial companies that offer innovative products and solutions. A walk through Start-Up Alley, conveniently located in the middle of the show floor, promises to be an intriguing experience. Companies selected to exhibit in this space must be founded within the past five years and must use science and creativity to offer a disruptive approach to an existing product category related to the food industry.

    All companies exhibiting at Start-Up Alley will have the opportunity to pitch their solutions to IFT19 attendees. Be sure to visit the IFTNEXT stage for the Start-Up Alley Pitch Sessions from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. on Monday, June 3, Tuesday, June 4, and Wednesday, June 5. A full schedule of pitching companies will be made available on-site.

    Visit iftevent.org/startupalley to learn more about the Start-Up Alley program and to see information about past and current startups.

    A Time for Celebration
    Spirits are sure to be high when IFT pays tribute to some of its most accomplished and dedicated members at the annual Awards Celebration, which will take place from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 2, in La Nouvelle Ballroom in the convention center. Among those who will be in the spotlight that evening are IFT’s 13 Achievement Award winners, 12 Fellows, and two student recipients of Excellence in Leadership Awards. Recipients of the IFT19 Food Expo Innovation Awards will also be recognized at the ceremony.

    Immediately following the Awards Celebration, the good times will continue to roll at the annual Welcome Celebration. This celebratory reception will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 2, in a fun and festive venue, nearby Mardi Gras World. Here, in addition to enjoying New Orleans–style music and refreshments, those attending the reception will have the opportunity to check out some of the spectacular Mardi Gras floats housed in the facility.

    Feed Your Mind at IFT19
    Nourishing the desire for knowledge is a big part of IFT’s annual event, and one of the primary vehicles for delivering on that is the impressive array of scientific and applied sessions planned for Monday through Wednesday, June 3–5. More than 100 sessions are scheduled, selected through IFT’s rigorous peer-review process. Sessions are organized within 12 topical tracks that range from food chemistry to sustainability.

    Posters“The scientific program for IFT19 again attracted a very high number of high-quality session proposals, and the scientific sessions promise to have something for everyone,” says Gunnar Sigge, chair of the Annual Meeting Scientific Program Advisory Panel and chair of the Department of Food Science at Stellenbosch University. “High-quality, relevant, and trending topics will be covered in three days of programming that will not disappoint. Attendees will be exposed to some of the leading scientists in the world on a broad range of food science topics.”

    Among this year’s highlights will be a full day of sessions dedicated to exploring one of the most fascinating areas of current research—the gut microbiome and its relationship to nutrition and health. “Deep Dive: “Gut Microbiome, Nutrition, and Health” will begin on Monday morning, June 3, with an overview and will continue throughout the day with sessions dedicated to specific aspects of micro-biome-related science. Microbiome Monday will conclude with sessions that take a look at the nuances of communicating messages about the microbiome to consumers.

    On Tuesday, June 4, IFT’s scientific program organizers will offer a half-day “Deep Dive” program, this one built around the theme of “Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainability: Science, Technology, and Policy.”

    • Career Development Micro Sessions. Successful career navigation isn’t always easy or intuitive. So over the course of the annual event, a series of short, intensive sessions on career-related topics will be presented at the IFT Central booth on the food expo floor. Topics like “Expectations vs. Reality: Working in the Food Industry,” “Bringing Your Authentic Self to Work,” and “Negotiating Your Salary and Benefits Package” promise to provide plenty of practical, valuable information for those eager for career advancement. A full schedule is available at iftevent.org/sessions/sessions/career-micro-sessions.

    • The Art of Science Translation Competition. New professionals and postdoctoral students will have an opportunity to hone their scientific communication skills via this new competition. Finalists will be paired with an IFT Food Science Communicator, who will act as a mentor to help them prepare for the competition, which will take place on Monday, June 3, at the IFT Central booth.

    • Poster Presentations. Each year these technical research presentations highlight the scientific and scholarly achievement of academics, students, and industry professionals. The work of more than 700 presenters will be showcased in New Orleans. Those selected to participate will offer a look at their research either via an ePoster (a digital poster display) or by using the more traditional approach in which research findings are highlighted on a large poster board.

    • Short Courses. IFT organizes a series of information-packed short courses on timely and important subjects as part of its mission to provide the food science community with learning opportunities. This year’s course lineup will include topics ranging from Plant Proteins: Functionalities and Applications to Design Thinking for the Creative Food Scientist. Courses, which are either one or two days in length, will take place Saturday and Sunday, June 1–2, at the New Orleans Marriott. For more information, or to sign up to take one, visit iftevent.org/sessions/short-courses.

    Nourishing Students’ Interests and Ambitions
    Today’s students are tomorrow’s food industry leaders, and IFT19 will offer a wide variety of events, activities, and competitions to help students progress along that path—and to have some fun and meaningful experiences along the way. Here’s a preview of what’s planned.

    • Student Lounge. The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) lounge, sponsored by PepsiCo and located in rooms 353–355 of the convention center, will be an ideal destination for students looking to take a break from the activity of the annual event and decompress, make plans for the day, or network with peers. In addition, at specific times on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, PepsiCo will conduct meet and greet sessions, allowing interested students to learn about internship and career opportunities at the company.

    • First-Timers Session. To enhance the annual event experience for those who’ve never attended it before, IFT offers this session of practically oriented tips and recommendations. It will take place from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 2, in room 345 of the convention center.

    • Excellence in Leadership Award. One undergraduate and one graduate student will be recognized for exemplary leadership in their execution of student activities when these awards are presented at the Awards Celebration on Sunday, June 2. Each recipient will receive $1,000 in addition to the award. Honorees will also be recognized at the IFTSA Closing Ceremony.

    College Bowl• College Bowl Competition. Eight regional teams will arrive in New Orleans with the same goal in mind: claiming victory in this high-profile competition, which features a series of double-elimination rounds. The first six rounds are closed to the public, but rounds seven to 12 are open to all. They will be held from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, in rooms 343–345 of the convention center. That evening, the championship rounds will take place during the IFTSA Closing Ceremony, which begins at 7 p.m. in the convention center’s La Nouvelle Ballroom. The College Bowl Competition is sponsored by Nestlé.

    • Developing Solutions for Developing Countries Competition. The six finalist teams in this competition will present their United Nations Sustainable Development Goals’ solutions in a session from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, in rooms 343–345 of the convention center. A roundtable question-and-answer session will follow the presentations.

    • Smart Snacks for Kids Product Development Competition. This competition, which will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, June 3, in rooms 343–345 of the convention center, challenges students to develop a fun and nutritious food or beverage product targeted to kids or teens.

    Student competition• IFTSA & Mars Product Development Competition. Now in its 29th year, this prestigious competition requires student teams to develop a new food product and take it from concept stage through production and marketing, in the same way that a commercial product development team would. Finalist teams will make oral presentations on Monday, June 3, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in rooms 343–345 of the convention center. The competition is sponsored by Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

    • IFTSA Graduate Research Video Competition. Participants in this competition sponsored by research organization Campden BRI were invited to submit a short video describing their research in a fun and engaging way. Finalists will share their videos and answer questions about their research on Monday, June 3, at the IFT Central booth. The competition winner will be treated to a 10-day trip to visit Campden BRI in the United Kingdom.

    • Undergraduate Research Competition. Six finalists will present their research both orally and via poster, with the top three finalists recognized. The competition will take place from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, June 3, in rooms 356–357 in the convention center.

    • Food Science in Action Video Competition. “Teaching and Learning Science Through Food” is the theme for the 2019 Journal of Food Science Education’s video competition, which challenges participants to create a fun and informational video that is targeted to grade school, middle school, or high school students. The creator of the winning video will be recognized at the Awards Celebration on Sunday evening, June 2.

    • Chapter Leaders Workshop. On Sunday, June 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., leaders of IFTSA chapters and area meeting chairs will take part in workshop activities designed to help them grow as leaders and develop success strategies for their campus clubs.

    • IFTSA & Feeding Tomorrow Student Celebration. This “pre-party” from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, in the convention center’s La Nouvelle Ballroom—just prior to the IFTSA Closing Ceremony festivities—is open to all IFT19 student attendees. IFTSA competition finalists and Feeding Tomorrow scholarship recipients will be celebrated.

    • IFTSA Closing Ceremony. Many IFT19 student activities will culminate at the IFTSA Closing Ceremony, scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, in the convention center’s La Nouvelle Ballroom immediately following the student celebration. Winners of student competitions will be announced, the championship rounds of the College Bowl Competition will take place, and IFTSA leadership will be introduced.

    • IFTSA Networking Party. Students aged 21 and older will be welcomed to this reception from 10 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday, June 4, at Fulton Alley, 600 Fulton Street in New Orleans, where the vibe will be fun and relaxed.

    And There’s So Much More
    Career Center Live• Career Center Live. 
    Job seekers and prospective employers will make connections at Career Center Live located in Hall C of the convention center. Things will kick off on Monday, June 3, with an informal networking event from noon to 5 p.m. This event, which provides active job searchers—as well as those still in the information-gathering stage—with a low-pressure way to get to know food industry employers, always draws a crowd. Prescheduled employment interviews will take place throughout the day on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 4–5.

    Last year’s Career Center Live event drew about 1,000 job seekers. Ingredion, Impossible Foods, Hissho Sushi, and Food Net Services are among the employers that will be on hand for Career Center Live this year.

    • Division Networking Reception. This popular event—open to all IFT19 attendees—is an ideal place for mixing and mingling while also learning about IFT’s divisions and their leaders. The reception will take place from 4:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, in rooms 243–245 of the convention center.

    • Division Socials. IFT divisions host a variety of luncheons and socials during the course of the annual event, providing excellent opportunities for topic-based networking. Check the mobile app or the IFT19 Program & Exhibit Directory for specific times and locations.

    • Section Leadership Forum. IFT section leaders will gather for the Section Leadership Forum from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 2, at the New Orleans Marriott. The event is designed to provide section leaders with a variety of opportunities to learn, build skills, and interact with their peers as well as with members of IFT’s leadership team.

    • CFS Networking Reception. New recipients of the Certified Food Scientist designation will receive certificates and pins at this reception scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday, June 3, in rooms 240–241 of the convention center. In addition, the Certified Food Scientist Lounge in room 269 of the convention center will be open to Certified Food Scientists and all those interested in learning more about certification from Monday, June 3, through Wednesday, June 5.

    • New Professionals Mixer. IFT19 attendees who have been in their careers for 10 years or less will be welcomed to the New Professionals Mixer from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, June 3, at the New Orleans Marriott.

    Coming Next Year
    In 2020, IFT’s annual event and food expo will return to Chicago, where the Institute of Food Technologists is headquartered. Mark your calendars for July 12–15, 2020.



    About the Author

    Mary Ellen Kuhn is executive editor of Food Technology magazine ([email protected]).
    Mary Ellen Kuhn