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Dr Jonathan Wilkin represents IFST at the IFT Emerging Leaders Network

Dr Jonathan Wilkin, Lecturer, Abertay University, represented IFST at this year’s IFT Emerging Leaders Network (ELN), which took place from 31 May to 2 June in New Orleans, USA. Here he reports from the event.

I was delighted to represent the UK at the Emerging Leaders Network on behalf of the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST).

The aim of the workshop was to build a sense of community, to interact with senior level food scientists and to identify personal skills and challenges. The seminars were intended to build upon skills already obtained through current and previous experiences and connect them together to understand and tackle future challenges. 

Participants (60) shared experiences 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 North and South America were represented) but some participants were from Europe and Australasia.

The take home message was ‘be deliberate and strategic in your role and take appropriate risks to develop yourself to become a leader of the future’. The workshop gave me the opportunity to evaluate what I currently do and create strategies for the future. 

The IFT19 Feed Your Future 3-day conference and expo attracted 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 in the shape and size of burgers and other meat products as well as clean label flavouring agents and, new to me, the use of cannabinoids in 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 (President of IFSTI) and Martin Danacher from Teagasc. This was a very interesting take on traceability and authenticity, in which the UK are leading the way. 

Overall, this was a fantastic opportunity 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.  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 within 3 days. 

I would like to thank IFST for sponsoring me on this event and 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 ‘Young’ or in my case ‘Newish’ to the food and drink sector, I would recommend submitting an entry.

Dr Jonathan Wilkin BSc (Hons), PhD, FIFST

Food Innovation at Abertay

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