CHICAGO — The Institute of Food Technologists’ (I.F.T.) purpose at each annual meeting is to bring scientific innovation and knowledge to the food industry. IFT18 will be no different. In fact, this year’s theme affirms the association’s goal as “A Matter of Food + Science.”

“It really focuses on the important role that science plays to ensure that our food system is safe, nutritious and sustainable,” said Kelly Fox, senior vice-president, meetings, I.F.T.

With an expected 1,200 exhibiting companies and 23,000 attendees, IFT18 will be held July 15-18 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The meeting kicks off with ceremonies for I.F.T.’s Fellows and Achievement awards and an opening event reception. On July 16, the exhibit hall opens and can be accessed until the end of the event.

While attendees have an opportunity to see new faces, new sessions and new ideas at IFT18, what they will certainly see is a new space. This year, the I.F.T. expanded its expo into the North Hall, which will include the Start-Up Alley, the organics pavilion, new exhibitor pavilion and the on-trend pavilion. The South Hall will house the China pavilion and food safety pavilion.

On the educational side, IFT18 will offer more than 100 sessions, including a full day on alternative proteins and a track dedicated to hot topics. IFTNEXT Quick Fire Sessions, which highlight multiple solutions to larger problems, made their debut last year and were the most attended and top-rated discussions. The sessions give presenters 15 minutes to describe a problem and solution with a Q&A or suggestions from the audience afterward.

Art and science collide in the first IFT18 featured session with Dennis Dimick, co-founder of Eyes on Earth: An Educational Collaborative and former executive editor for National Geographic. Mr. Dimick will explore humanity’s impact on the Earth and its sustainability through his photography.

“His work is thought-provoking,” Ms. Fox said. “As a photographer, he provides a nice contrast and perspective to a scientific speaker while still addressing core issues in science.”

The second featured session is a panel discussion on the tension between consumer demands and companies acting responsibly with food. It will be moderated again this year by Tamar Haspel, a columnist at the Washington Post.

The I.F.T. also will debut a third featured session, the Food Disruption Challenge, which supports innovative entrepreneurs. Food start-ups entered the challenge in January, and by the event, judges will narrow the number down to six final contestants. These entrepreneurs will compete for the $25,000 grand cash prize and a $5,000 People’s Choice award.

Each start-up will be interviewed by Daymond John, a U.S. presidential ambassador for global entrepreneurship but known nationally as a Shark on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” In addition to emceeing the challenge, Mr. John will give his own presentation on entrepreneurship.

The I.F.T. also introduced its new app in April, and in it, attendees will find a directory, map and schedule as well as have the ability to connect with other attendees through the social feed, vote on the People’s Choice award and get news about events such as the Fun Run + Fitness fundraiser and educational sessions.

For more information on educational sessions and to register for IFT18, visit