Carla Hall

Food Technology Staff

Article Content

    Looking for a food system learning, networking, and discovery experience that’s second to none? IFT’s 2021 digital experience, FIRST (Food Improved by Research, Science & Technology), slated for Monday through Wednesday, July 19–21, will provide it. The Solution Exchange, which facilitates connections between suppliers and innovators, will take place July 19–23.

    FIRST logo preview
    FIRST logo preview

    IFT’s annual experience continues to evolve and expand. This year’s AI-enabled digital experience has been designed to provide a personalized forum for solving problems, sharing knowledge, and expanding strategic connections. Live keynote presentations during the three-day exploration of scientific and business insights will be complemented by hundreds of on-demand presentations. On-demand sessions will be available to FIRST registrants from July 12 through December 31, 2021, allowing plenty of time for assimilating the comprehensive array of educational options that FIRST registration affords.

    Connect With Solution Providers

    Suppliers and influencers/innovators will have ample opportunities to connect via the FIRST Solution Exchange through interactive Supplier Suite showrooms. The Solution Exchange platform will enable product development innovators and influencers to identify and meet with a group of expert solution providers of their choice through personalized meetings called meetups, all designed to provide participants with a customized solution and product discovery experience.

    Supplier Suites also provide an easy-to-use and search online marketplace for researching ingredients, services, and technologies that match the searcher’s criteria. It’s a convenient way to connect with knowledgeable experts and get answers to pressing questions and challenges.

    Science FIRST

    Science is always at the heart of IFT’s annual experience. Presenters in more than 100 scientific sessions will address topics ranging from alternative fats to wet fractionation, high pressure processing to low-value agriculture transformation—and so much more. In a brand-new feature this year, the FIRST platform will include one-minute FIRST Bites videos that offer a quick look at each session to help registrants better plan their schedules.

    Science FIRST will delve deeply into the question of “Zero Hunger: Will We Get There?” in keynote sessions (see page 29 for more information) and follow-up presentations organized within a framework of six key areas: Health and Nutrition, Food Safety, Consumer Insights and Education, Environmental Sustainability, Technology and Innovation, and Supply Chain Transformation. For each of these areas, attendees will have access to panel discussions featuring high-profile presenters, live discussion circles, and focused scientific presentations.

    Hundreds of technical research paper presentations will be available on demand for those seeking cutting-edge scientific insights. This year, the qualifications for participation have been expanded to allow for the inclusion of work by pre-tenured faculty members, grant project awardees, and highly cited authors.

    All of this will be presented in an easy-to-search and customized content platform that provides suggested content and contacts based on selected interests and content engagement.

    Business FIRST

    Among the new offerings for 2021 is a track called Business FIRST, which focuses on the latest trends and business strategies. Business FIRST highlights include the following:

    Trends in 10. Three high-profile food industry gurus will identify need-to-know foodservice and packaged foods trends in fast-paced, information-packed sessions each day of the experience.

    • Startup Central. This startup-focused programming will include educational sessions, a social event, and the always exciting, fiercely competitive IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ pitch competition.

    Leading Indicator Series. These thought-provoking sessions will explore business trends, strategies, and tactics to help innovators seize opportunities, fuel growth, and forge productive partnerships. Here’s a preview of what’s on the agenda.

    Next-Gen Marketing. An expert marketer will share real-world examples of how savvy food companies have tapped nontraditional channels and sophisticated storytelling to authentically tell their brand stories in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

    • Small by Design. Entrepreneurs who’ve rejected the lure of big money to protect their vision and maintain control will talk about the value of achieving business success on their own terms.

    • Food With Purpose. Discover how conscientious capitalism is spurring a growing number of companies to focus on social responsibility and pursue B-Corp status.

    • Tomorrow, Today. Amid an environment of accelerated and constant change, a blue-ribbon panel of trend watchers, analysts, and consultants will forecast opportunities and threats on the horizon.

    • Follow the Money. Panelists with finance and equity expertise will offer their insights on investment-worthy trends, where the merger and acquisition market is headed next, and why some food giants are trimming their portfolios.

    • If I Knew Then. A panel of startup survivors will reflect on what they did—and didn’t do—right in launching their businesses, zeroing in on everything from supply chain to financing.

    Food Disruption Challenge™ Competition

    FIRST is all about innovation, and some excellent examples of disruptive innovation will be in the spotlight on the final day of the event when the five finalists in the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ take the virtual stage to compete for the grand prize of $25,000 and a $5,000 People’s Choice Award. Claire Schlemme, CEO of Renewal Mill, winner of IFT’s inaugural Food Disruption Challenge pitch event, will be the host.

    Here’s a look at the five finalist companies:

    • Mori is the creator of an innovative technology to keep food fresh longer via an invisible protective layer.

    • Journey Foods is a technology company with an AI platform that analyzes ingredients to support smart food product development.

    • Ripe Revival is the maker of all-natural, nutrient-dense fruit and vegetable gummies formulated with a proprietary technology.

    • SnapDNA offers an on-site pathogen testing technology with the potential to reduce testing time from days to minutes.

    Trophic is a startup that is building the technology to scale up seaweed farming.

    Time to Get Social

    Although learning experiences will be high on the FIRST agenda, plenty of opportunities for networking and socializing have been built into the program, including a special opening night celebration on Monday, July 19.