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IFT17 – a student view from Vegas

Food Science second year students Alice Nield and Alice Bryant from the University of Reading report back from IFT17. The Institute of Food Technologists 2017 Conference, ‘Go With Purpose’, was hosted this year in Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps! After winning an IFST competition, we were lucky to attend IFT for the first time. We had to write a short essay about the most pressing issue for the industry in the next 5-10 years, which got us thinking before the conference.

Twelve Food Science students from across the globe, USA, South Africa, Australia, China, Honduras and UK, came together and participated in the ‘Go With Purpose Global Challenge’ led by the IFT Student Association (IFTSA).

Subdivided into three teams, we picked a problem to solve using the extensive resources available to us: the expo floor, scheduled lectures and speaking with food industry professionals.

Each team used a soy protein bar, with two teams searching for an alternative protein source (think cricket powder and watermelon seed protein) and one team for natural, low calorie sweeteners to reduce sugar. It was a fantastic experience to get out of our comfort zone and think outside the box whilst improving our networking, public speaking and teamwork skills. To help guide us, we had an industry mentor and gained tips fromn frequent IFT attendees.

We spent a lot of time on the expo floor speaking with exhibitors, racking up steps for the pedometer challenge and finding tasty free samples. Each group presented its solutions on Wednesday, commenting on many aspects including sustainability and cost. Our ideas and suggestions from IFT17 are still being fine-tuned for the IFTSA Global Summit in November, where our ideas will be presented in a 5-7-minute time frame.

IFT17 was a fantastic way to network with food students and industry professionals whilst improving our map-reading skills. The expo floor was situated in one of Vegas’ iconic hotels, The Venetian, complete with its own canal. It contained over 1200 exhibitors from a huge variety of companies. In three days, we learnt so much about new food trends from large companies and also from much smaller ones with new, unique solutions, including sugar replacements and alternative proteins.

We were introduced to products we had never even considered (or heard of!), for example watermelon seed protein and monkfruit syrup, which opened our eyes to the new ways the food industry is expanding to meet consumer needs. It put into perspective all that we had learnt in our first two years at university and has equipped us well for the first few weeks of our placement year.

As well as improving our knowledge, IFT17 was a lot of fun and very sociable – a fantastic opportunity to meet Food Science students (and compare the differences in our courses) as there were so many occasions to network.

We had the privilege to watch the premiere of the IFT film, ‘Food Evolution’, a scientific documentary highlighting the facts and importance of genetically modified foods around the globe. We both thoroughly enjoyed the way the film portrayed the truth and science behind genetic modification and are hoping to arrange a screening at Reading University. College Bowl, a food science based student quick-fire quiz show, was another IFT17 highlight – very exciting and incredible knowledge by those taking part!

We'd both recommend attending future IFT conferences to any student or industry professional. A big thank you to IFST and IFT for making this opportunity possible for us both. Not only did we learn so much at IFT17, we also got to explore Vegas and even see the Grand Canyon by extending our conference stay for a short time.

Pictured above: Global challenge participants with mentors and members of IFT

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