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IFT18 – two student views from Chicago

IFT Global Challenge

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) organised its second annual Global Challenge at the IFT 18 Conference held in Chicago themed A Matter of Science + Food. We were selected to take part in this Challenge after participating in an IFST competition in the UK. For this competition, we had to write on pressing global food issues that the food industry will face within the next five to ten years, stating what roles we could play in addressing them.

The Global Challenge comprised undergraduate and graduate students from universities across the globe, such as the USA, UK, Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, South Africa and China. We were a total of twenty food science students forming five teams of four. It was indeed an educational and exciting experience. Meeting with students from these parts of the world and discovering the differences in our courses and culture was really interesting. The event commenced with a briefing session on Sunday evening, where each team was assigned a mentor from the food industry. The Awards ceremony and networking event followed afterwards which were great networking platforms. We were introduced to the board members of IFT and the student body and were privileged to be the first set of students invited to the IFT International Partners Reception.

Each team had a case study with a unique trend. For our team, it was the ‘clean labelling’ trend with the challenge of replacing artificial flavours and colours in a nacho cheese dip with natural ones. The Expo floor was our major source of information for finding solutions. After several visits to booths, such as MINTEL, and discussions with exhibitors from the ingredient companies, we came up with a variety of options to formulate the new product with a clean label while retaining its functionality and sensory attributes. Factors, such as ingredient availability, cost and sustainability, were considered. With guidance from our mentors, brainstorming and application of our knowledge of food science, three formulations with clean labels were presented.

There were workshops on product innovation and key career tools, such as leadership for new hires organised for Global Challenge participants, which were presented by the mentors. These served as eye openers to some aspects of innovation and in our career ambitions.

Considering the benefits of the IFT Global Challenge, I would recommend every student to apply for it. It provided invaluable skills acquisition and learning opportunities, such as improving our ability to work in teams and enhancing our problem solving and creative thinking skills. Learning directly from our mentors and gaining first-hand from their experience was priceless! Presenting our solutions and listening to other group presentations was key in developing communication and presentation skills.

Among all the activities, I enjoyed and looked forward to my visits to the booths. The exhibitors were always willing to provide answers to our questions and share their recent developments. Also, it was so much fun collecting carry bags and filling them with free samples from various companies as well as some materials and literature on their products and new technology.

The Challenge was well organised such that we came out gaining so much in a few days. The knowledge acquired has provided more insight for our plans for life after school. It has also broadened our perspective of the food industry and on how to channel our research towards addressing some global food issues.

In general, the IFTSA Global Challenge has been a very rewarding, inspiring and fun-filled experience. I’m so glad that I participated and do encourage other students to do same.

Blessing Nwokocha

University of Reading



IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) hosted the ‘Global Challenge 2018’ in Chicago, USA from 15 to 18 July 2018. We had the honour to participate thanks to the collaboration between IFT and IFST. In order to take part in the competition, we had to go through a national competition launched by IFST earlier in the year. The competition consisted of writing an essay (500 words) to identify, explain and propose solutions to a global food challenge.

Twenty students from the USA, the UK, China, South Africa and Puerto Rico joined us in the competition under the guidance of IFTSA (Institute of Food Technologists Student Association).

On our first day, after registration we gathered together and were divided into five groups of four students. Each group had an expert mentor that guided us in finding the best solution to the challenge. We then had to randomly pick a real-world based case study. To find a solution to our case study, we were asked to use all the tools and resources from the expo (e.g. brochures and samples). For instance, my group had to develop an energy bar and find a suitable method to incorporate nutrients or other compounds to improve gut health.

In order to be able to come up with a suitable product, we took part in talks, presentations, scientific sessions, but above all the majority of the inspiration derived from the expo floor. Thousands of exhibitors from across the world created the perfect environment for us to understand what is new in the food industry and which products could be used to overcome the challenge. Moreover, this was a great opportunity to create networks with experts in the field.

At the end of the three-day challenge, we were required to give a brief presentation about the product and the rationale used to tackle the problem. This gave me the opportunity to show my skills in terms of team working and presentation to an audience.

Furthermore, during the three-day challenge we, as a group, also started to share previous experiences, skills and different points of view. For example, I had a constructive discussion with a US student about food labelling and the differences between the US and the UK. This exchange of opinions and knowledge was, for me, the highlight of the entire challenge.

During the three-day expo, I came across a countless number of new products that I did not even know existed, such as hemp chocolate bar (very nice!) or ready to eat popped brown rice. From this experience I have learnt that it is very important to expand one’s own knowledge, scanning and researching all around the world for new ideas. This is a new skill that will allow students to be more creative and open-minded.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend everyone to apply and participate in this competition because it is a great opportunity to expand knowledge, create new connections in the field, share the experience with other students and exchange views.

Antonio Lonigro

Sheffield Hallam University


Top photo: Blessing Nwokocha, left, and Antonio Lonigro stand either side of Challenge Mentor Bertrand Emond, of Campden BRI


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