21 July 2013

Institute of Food Technologists Conference 2013

IFT Conference and Expo 2013. What a blast! As someone from a university that doesn't have a food science program, IFT was an eye-opener to the food science industry. I found so many aspects of food science that I had never considered, and I also learned that there is a career in food packaging, sustainability, and waste management. Who knew?

I'm not really sure how much I'm allowed to expose about the IFT Expo because we weren't really allowed to take pictures, and a lot of it was probably supposed to be confidential information. However, I can give an overview of the program. We had an opening ceremony on Saturday the 13th in the evening, where the current and next IFT president talked to us, and we watched a bunch of videos to much fanfare music. We then had a networking reception with snacks. Each day of the conference, there were presentations, poster sessions, product development competitions, and the Expo. The Expo is basically thousands of booths (7 football fields, apparently), each showcasing their products and looking to sign a deal with some consumer company. According to my friends, these people would start off all cheery, but lose interest as soon as they learned that we were students. I only found that this occured in about 17% of the people with whom I talked. Most companies were willing to chat, answer my questions (interestingly, a lot of people were in Sales/Marketing, so they didn't know how to answer my technical questions), and give me samples and point me to more information.
I obtained many samples. Stevia seems to be a big research area currently. In reviewing my samples, half of them were sweet items (brownies, chocolate, cereal, granola, dried fruit, candy, gummies) that had been modified to include more fiber, less sugar, more vitamins, less fat, more protein, less gluten...

I went to watch a student product design competition finals. I personally didn't think that the presentations were good enough to warrant this as the finals (typos, stumbling on words, overall organization), but who am I to judge?

At night, there were some IFT Student Association mixers, one at the Navy Pier and one in the Hilton. For a food science event, the food was merely ok. I feel like Google entry-level employees have better dining options than the typical food industry R&D employee, which is just silly.

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