IFT19 Emerging Leaders Network - Report

I was delighted to represent the UK at the Emerging Leaders Network on behalf of the Institute of Food Science & Technology. The workshop, which took place prior to the IFT19 Food Expo – Feed Your Future in New Orleans, USA, was a great opportunity to hone my leadership skills and accelerate my career potential.

The aim of the workshop was to build a sense of community and have the opportunity to interact with senior level food scientists and finally understand my skills, challenges, and myself in a productive manner. The seminars were intended to build upon the skills already obtained through current and previous experiences and connect them together to understand what challenges the person would have in the future, and then build strategies to take these challenges on and then turn them into productive opportunities. 

It was a safe and productive place, where participants shared experiences (60 of us) and connected with a wide array of different food scientists from the industry as well as academia. The focus was mainly within the Americas (both Northern and Southern America were represented) but some participants were from further afield, some from Europe and others from Australasia.

In addition to the network building and other highlights from the course, the take home message can be applied to everyone. Be deliberate and strategic in your role and take appropriate risks to develop yourself to become a leader of the future. All very sensible advice, but I felt that this has given me the opportunity to evaluate what I currently do and create strategies to either keep doing it or to discontinue doing it. 

The 3-day workshop over the weekend prior to the IFT19 Feed Your Future conference really set me up to tackle food and drink related issues in the future. The IFT19 Feed Your Future 3-day conference and expo saw 17,000 attendees and over 1000 exhibitors at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Centre, Louisiana USA.  This event highlighted the industrial and academic progress being made in innovation and science within the sector. On show, and in considerable numbers were vegan proteins, particularly in the shape and size of burgers and meat products. Other exhibitors were clean label flavouring agents, and lastly, a new trend for me, the use of cannabinoids as food products. Apparently, cannabinoids is the second largest trend in the States, the first being vegan protein. 

Highlights from the scientific and applied sessions were around non-thermal processing technologies, plant-based meat revolution, food loss and waste minimisation, cannabis edibles, 3D food printing and “Fat is back on the menu”.  Our Chief Executive (Jon Poole) shared an interesting presentation “Can we win the fight against food fraud” with Bertrand Emond from Camden BRI, Declan Troy from Teagasc and President of IFSTI and finally Martin Danacher from Teagasc. This was a very interesting take on traceability and authenticity, which the UK are leading the way. 

Overall, this was a fantastic opportunity to be involved within, and a great way of propelling my career forward. I would recommend the Emerging Leaders Network as a great way of meeting people who share similar challenges as you (I felt the ELN organiser paid special care and attention to match you up really well).  If you have not been to the IFT annual conference before, I would highly recommend it, as this was the easiest way to catch up on the world of food science all within 3 days. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank IFST for sponsoring me on this event and thank those judges who chose me as the UK’s representative. This experience has helped not only my own career (within my role at Abertay University) but it also helped me see the impact my role has on the Scottish Food and Drink sector, as well as the UK as a whole. If you are a “Young” or in my case “Newish” to the food and drink sector, and IFST are running this again next year, I would recommend you submit an entry.

Dr Jonathan Wilkin BSc (Hons), PhD, FIFST

Food Innovation at Abertay