Chris Downs headshot

Chris Downs

The interconnected, interdependent nature of the world we live in creates a myriad of significant challenges, such as a variable and changing climate, escalating pressure on the earth’s precious natural resources, the continuing crisis around food, nutrition, and health, and the impact of geopolitical tensions on the supply chain. It also presents immense opportunities for the global food system and IFT.

As an Australian currently working in crop and food science with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Queensland, Australia, I am passionate about IFT’s mission to connect global food system communities to promote and advance the science of food and its application. I am honored to have the opportunity to make a positive impact as president of this great organization as we work toward that goal in the year ahead.

I am stepping into this role at an exciting time. Just two months ago, we convened more than 15,000 students and professionals representing academia, industry, and government at IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo. Attendees from more than 70 countries were among the participants in person in Chicago and online. It was the largest and most innovative gathering of science of food professionals in three years, and it was filled with countless opportunities to connect, learn, innovate, and have some fun. Seeing so many like-minded professionals who share a commitment to advancing the science of food engaging in thoughtful, cross-disciplinary conversations, making strategic business connections, and challenging thinking around the issues our global food system faces was energizing and inspiring. Plans are already underway for next year’s event, which is scheduled for July 16–19, 2023, in Chicago. I can’t wait to see what new ideas the team comes up with to ignite innovation and inspire action among this brilliant community.

"Continuing to look for new and exciting ways to engage and support a broader swath of the science of food community will be a significant priority in the coming year."

One of the ways IFT has evolved in the past few years is an increased focus on providing members with the technical applications of science, trusted research, and educational materials to solve problems and enhance their skills quickly and efficiently. We saw that firsthand at IFT FIRST, but it manifests itself in a host of other areas. The recently redesigned Food Technology magazine does an exceptional job of examining issues and innovations driving the science of food and contextualizing the discussion around the intersection of science, business, and product innovation. IFT’s highly ranked journals—Journal of Food Science and Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety—continue to provide the latest peer-reviewed, novel research and reviews from experts around the globe. Our online community, IFT Connect, has proven to be a valuable resource for people to seek quick advice and gain recommendations to address challenges. Adding an anonymous posting mechanism in IFT Connect has made it even easier for those who are uncomfortable posting technical questions or are concerned that their inquiry might inadvertently reveal proprietary information to still get the support they need.

IFT continuously seeks innovative new ways to provide value to members. With the introduction of our group membership offering, teams have access to a technical concierge who can help them quickly access the information or resources they need to be successful. So far, the IFT team has assisted members seeking information related to accelerated shelf-life testing, off-flavor concerns, and identifying a potential co-manufacturer. This is a great example of how we are actively supporting the work our community does. Continuing to look for new and exciting ways to engage and support a broader swath of the science of food community will be a significant priority in the coming year.

We work in a global food system. We are a knowledgeable and inspired group of global food system professionals. We have a responsibility to ensure the voice of science is even more sharply embedded into the global food system. I look forward to working with our talented board of directors, leaders, dedicated volunteers, and members to make a lasting impact in the year ahead.

About the Author

Chris Downs, PhD, is IFT President, 2022–2023 ([email protected]).
Chris Downs headshot