One thing IFT is known for is the enormous expo floor tiled with exhibitors and suppliers big or small. Browsing and walking the entirety of the expo can take hours.
Who are the exhibitors? These are companies that offer a wide range of products and services such as ingredients, natural and artificial coloring, scientific instruments, finished food products, packaging, processing equipment, market research services, sensory services, product development services, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibers, and the hot and new cannabis products.
By the second day, I was already overwhelmed with all of the people, sights, and crowds.
To take a break from the expo, I checked out two scientific sessions. There are over 100 scientific sessions offered at IFT that covers every topic from food regulations to sensory. Every hour there are several sessions to choose from.
Just when I was starting to feel overwhelmed about figuring out which sessions to attend, I remembered that IFT created a handy app! From the app, I checked the news feed, expo map, and the schedule of events. I just pulled up the schedule block and scrolled down to scan the topics of discussion. One click on a discussion showed me the time, place, topic, a short summary of the topic of discussion, and the speakers. Easy Peasy! This was definitely the most helpful tool I had during the entire conference.
Here are the two I attended:
- Sensory Science: Bridge Between Food and Health
- Benchmarks, hurdles, and metrics to compare products and categories
During each one of these scientific sessions, several distinguished professors and/or professionals from industry with years of experience presented on the topic. Thoughtful and challenging discussions are then held after the presentations with Q&A.
Details on these sessions on another post.
Between sessions, attendees usually spend time at mixers, poster sessions, presentations, talks, or meetings -some even meeting in private areas within the exhibitor space in the expo. This gives you an idea of how big some of these booths are.
The expo and sessions all end around 5:00PM each day. However, for some the fun doesn’t stop there.
The evening of Day 2 at IFT I recieved an invitation from a supplier to attend an event they are hosting at the Field Museum of Chicago. Supplier events are commonly held around Chicago during IFT after the conference hours. This is an opportunity for suppliers to get to know their customers and for customers to network with each other in a more relaxed environment with food and drink.
Lucky for me, the venue of the supplier event I attended was at a beautiful and amazing Field Museum that sits right next to the water overlooking Lake Michigan. The airy bright space was decorated beautifully. A live band played jazz while delicious appetizers were served and drinks were poured. What a wonderful space to be networking!
While I was there at the museum, I took advantage of being there without the crowds. It was like a private show! A group of people from Museum Hack offered short and fun private tours to small groups of guests. It was an intimate tour full of marvelous stories. Our guide was so enthusiastic as she shared us stories of the exhibits.