Food Innovation (Product & Packaging) Group

The Food Innovation Group provides members interested in innovative food design and development (from concept through to final product) with an opportunity to engage and share knowledge with others.

It has a broad scope, covering all areas related to raw materials (ingredients and packaging), culinary aspects, design thinking, intellectual property as well as insights and trends. It also considers topics such as commerciality, product process development and new product launches as well as managing critical paths (stage-gate process), and will contribute to relevant publications.

They will be involved in a wide range of activities, including face to face events, webinars and discussion workshops, to engage IFST members, share ideas and knowledge, and support the food sector.

Meet the Food Innovation (Product & Packaging) Group committee:

Chair: Susan Arkley 

Vice-chair: Lindsey Solomons

Communications: Valia Christidou

Other committee members: Craig Duckham, Sarah Gaunt, Emma Hanby, Bronwyn Hawker, Isabel Lozano Hernández, Julia Hewerdine, Ben King, Sheila Kupsch, Mandy Lloyd, Emilee Richardson, Matt Swain, Helen Taylor, Steve Timms, Jelena Vidic, Sarah Wilkie, Jon Wilkin, Susan Wright. 

Meet the Food Innovation (Product & Packaging) Group

Susan Arkley, MIFST, has over 20 years of food industry experience, specialising in product development and innovation. She has managed innovation teams and projects (from concept to launch) in a variety of different companies from SME’s to large global corporations. Susan is now a Freelance Food Consultant, part-time lecturer and IFST volunteer. Susan is Chair of the new Innovation Special Interest Group, a member of the External Affairs Group and committee member of the IFST Midlands Branch.

Valia Christidou, FIFST, is an R&D leader with 30 years’ experience in the food industry in the UK and abroad. She has held senior technical positions as head of R&D UK and Europe, for Pladis (formerly United Biscuits) and before this as head of Product Design. Valia has overseen the creation and launch of over 300 new products and nutritional improvements under iconic brands such as McVitie’s, Jacob’s and Godiva. Valia also gained marketing experience early in her career, as a Senior Brand Manager. Very keen to inspire the next generation to discover the opportunities and thrills of a technical career in food, Valia joined IFST’s Innovation Special Interest Group and also blogs about all things product development and innovation at

Dr Craig Duckham, FIFST. Following a number of years in University research; investigating plant biochemistry, biogenic volatile hydrocarbon emissions and flavour chemistry, Craig pursued a career in analytical chemistry and technical management. This led to contract R&D and technology transfer management in the microencapsulation industry, operating across diverse sectors. This included three years developing sensory tools for beverage and food quality control. Beer and wine tasting was a necessity! In 2012 Craig set up CD R&D Consultancy Services through which he provides technical support and know-how to both mature and developing F&B businesses. Craig is a Fellow of the Institute of Food Science and Technology, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and also a member of the Society of Chemical Industry, with a PhD in Plant Physiology from The University of Nottingham.

Emma Hanby leads Consulting Technology at Campden BRI, a broad scale technology team encompassing Product Innovation, Process Innovation, Food Safety Management, Information Services and Regulatory Affairs. The team provides consulting and practical support to the food, drink and allied industries spanning the entire supply chain. Prior to this Emma was the head of the Service Management team (2018), the head of the Product Innovation team (2011) and held roles in Packaging and Manufacturing and in Process development. Emma graduated from the University of Huddersfield in 2000 with a degree in Food Science and Nutrition. Emma worked in food manufacturing and retailing for a number of major companies in both technical and quality roles before moving to Campden BRI in 2004.

Bronwyn Hawker has 15 years of working in NPD and Technical roles in the food industry. She is currently the NPD manager for Mia & Ben, a plant-based baby and kids' food start-up. Before this Bronwyn worked for Annabel Karmel as their NPD and technical manager developing ready meals for babies and for Wagamama managing their food redevelopment programme. Bronwyn has also worked for both Lantmannen and Winterbotham Darby, developing bakery and dessert products for UK retailers with manufacturers in Europe. She also has 5 years’ experience in NPD of soft drinks for companies in the UK and New Zealand. 

Lindsey Solomons, FIFST, is an Innovation & NPD expert with 30 years’ experience in Food Industry worldwide. She founded NPD Edge, her food tech consultancy company working globally with clients to create new products and brand innovation. As a passionate foodie, she co-founded a food blog based in New York and London. She is a Fellow of IFST and vice-chair of the Food Innovation SIG.

Helen Taylor, MIFST,  is the Technical  Director of the  ZERO2FIVE, Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University and has been an integral member of the team since 2006. Helen has responsibility for industry and commercial interfaces with the centre including the management and delivery of specific technical and innovation projects for the food industry working with over 150 companies. Helen has also taught at undergraduate and master’s level and is a qualified Auditor and Mentor to the food and packaging Industry.  Prior to her current role in the academic sector, Helen was a senior Technical manager with major global food companies for over 15 years.

Steve Timms, FIFST, is the Commercial Development Manager for Brenntag Food & Nutrition UK & IRE. He has over 38 years’ experience in the food industry working initially in food research (dietary fibre) and subsequently in manufacturing and distribution companies. Qualified as a biochemist with an additional qualification in microbiology, Steve has assisted many companies successfully formulate and launch new products in Europe, the Middle East and North America.

Sarah Wilkie, MIFST, is a Food Technologist at the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation. She works mostly with small start-up companies that require food science expertise but she also deals with larger companies who require help with the reformulation of existing products. Sarah joined the Food Innovation Special Interest Group to share and discuss challenges within food innovation and network with people with similar interests.



Upcoming events




IFST Impact Award

We value the important contribution that volunteers bring to the work and life of the Institute. Without the contribution of the volunteers who serve on committees, branches and special interest groups, we would find it difficult to achieve the strategic priorities set out by the Board of Trustees. The Impact Award is an opportunity for volunteers to showcase an innovative activity which has been undertaken which meets the following criteria.

  1. Is new and has been undertaken in the last 12 months which delivers measurable impact to any/any/all IFSTs strategic priorities, or
  2. Is an existing activity which has undergone an adaptation or change in order to deliver an enhanced impact linked to any/all of IFSTs strategic priorities, and which 
  3. Is scalable and sustainable. 

Previous winners:

2020 IFST Northern Ireland Branch and Eastern Branch 

2019 IFST Student Group

2018 IFST Student Group

2017 IFST Sensory Science Group

Find out more about the previous winners, entry criteria and submissions here.

Get in touch

Our Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are each run by a small committee of volunteer members, who meet both face-to-face and virtually. Members of a group are actively involved in organising and attending meetings in relation to setting up activities, events etc., as part of a committee. The groups are supported by the IFST central team, including the Scientific Affairs Manager, and provide excellent networking opportunities and support to group members.

If you would like to get involved as a member of our Food Innovation (Product & Packaging) Group committee, please contact us.