by | Aug 3, 2021

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a “forum for passionate science of food professionals and technologists to collaborate, learn, and contribute all with the goal of inspiring and transforming collective scientific knowledge into innovative solutions for the benefit of all people around the world.” Their flagship annual event was reimagined this year, as COVID-19 and other social upheavals and challenges brought the opportunity to re-envision and transform this favorite conference of ours. The new, AI-enabled virtual event and expo experience created for 2021 is called FIRST—Food Improved by Research, Science, and Technology. We came together online with the science of food community to solve problems, share knowledge, and expand strategic connections.

IFT FIRST Themes and Thoughts

InsightsNow attendees, speakers and participants found a big focus of the show this year to be on plant-based everything. From innovative, sustainable products to the technology behind creating a meat-free world to the latest trends in shifting to plant-based, IFT First covered it all! Of particular enjoyment was the treat of having comfort-food maven Carla Hall, most known for her stints on Bravo’s Top Chef show, give a keynote address to kick off the conference. Another favorite for us here at InsightsNow was the Food Disruption Pitch competition…and of course, our own sessions at the show! 

InsightsNow at IFT FIRST

As usual, InsightsNow was deeply involved with the programming for the IFT conference, with our CRO Greg Stucky speaking on: “How can COVID-19 be a catalyst for change?” This first session of ours brought together diverse voices and perspectives, outlining challenges and opportunities for how to address the question. 

Greg also explored Behaviorally Driven Concept and Product Development Sprints for Rapid Plant-Based Innovation.” These workshop sessions explored how we can achieve success in feeding the world by quickly innovating concepts that consumers recognize as clean, healthy and desirable. Attendees were able to delve into how culinary food product developers and sensory and consumer scientists can work together in accelerating winning concepts—using behavioral insights and then applying co-development to rapidly build and scale winning plant-based foods. The first part of the workshop looked at behavioral neuromarketing techniques including prime-target response—and looked at applications to measure consumer reactions to sensory cues. The second part discussed how behavioral insights can be applied to rapidly develop concepts through co-creation and illustrate how to incorporate cues to disrupt and nudge consumers. The CRAEVS framework developed by InsightsNow was used as an example to illustrate how this would work.  

Our Senior Research Director, Kimberly Greenwood, participated in a panel discussion called “Drawers of Mistakes: What I Have Learned from Messing up,” where she, along with other panel members, shared a mistake they have made in the course of their careers. Mistakes shared ran the gamut from research, design, execution, analysis and interpretation. They then shared what they learned, what they’d do differently in the future and their major takeaways from this mistake. 

Next Time at IFT First

In future years, IFT let us know that registrants can enjoy FIRST as a hybrid experience, allowing people to continue to make the most of virtual and in-person programming. We look forward to all the innovations, trends and topics we will continue to learn about through IFT programming.