The food science community returns to McCormick Place in Chicago July 16-19 for the Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) annual meeting, IFT FIRST Annual Event and Expo. The largest food innovation expo in North America is expected to draw 17,000 attendees and 800 exhibiting companies, offering networking, educational sessions, competitions and more. 

“IFT FIRST is one of the most important food events in the world as it unites the visionary leaders guiding the global transformation of our food supply and provides them with a unique platform to share cutting-edge ideas, demonstrate modern food system solutions and collaborate on ways to ensure a healthier and more sustainable future,” said Christie Tarantino-Dean, IFT chief executive officer. 

In accomplishing these objectives, this year’s theme is Innovation in a Time of Crisis: Can We Future Proof the Food System? Sessions will explore topics such as sustainability, upcycling, turning food waste into profit, food safety and how consumers’ food choices are impacted by crisis.

The opening keynote, Embedding Innovation Into Everyone’s DNA, will be given by Duncan Wardle, former head of innovation and creativity for The Walt Disney Co. Mr. Wardle will discuss common mistakes companies make when innovating and how they can make the innovation process easier, as well as his own experience at Disney. 

Innovation Across the Supply Chain for Healthy People and Planet, the second day’s keynote, will feature winners from the Global Food System Challenge, an initiative challenging participants to design innovations that transform the food system. The challenge, formed and funded by the Seeding the Future Foundation, awards $1 million each year to the winners. 

The foundation will also host The Pitch at the Startup Pavilion on the expo floor, where 100 food startups will be able to take part in a “multi-stage rapid-pitch” competition spanning three days. The winning startup will receive $10,000 and two runners-up will win $2,500 each. 

IFT First will additionally offer fireside chats and Business FIRST sessions on the expo floor, offering listeners 20 to 30 minute case studies and presentations on ingredients, trends and applied science. 

This year’s show will debut an Innovation Lab on the final day, an interactive lab where attendees can solve real-world product development problems using fundamental and applied science. The show will also host a career fair this year, allowing job applicants to connect with food science and CPG companies, as well as companies exhibiting for the first time.

For more information and to register for the event, visit here.