Chicago's McCormick Place plays host to the annual Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo on Saturday, July 28 through Wednesday, Aug. 1.
An estimated 20,000 food science and industry professionals from around the world will convene to learn about the latest science, trends and product developments in the food industry. Themes this year are food safety, health and wellness and functional ingredients.
Networking also is important, and that starts on opening night. A cocktail reception in the Grand Ballroom follows the IFT Achievement Awards celebration Saturday evening, which honors members for outstanding contributions to the field of food science and technology.
On Sunday morning, keynote speaker Jason Jennings, business thought-leader and best selling author of Think Big, Act Small, shares his insights on the strategies leading organizations use to keep the spirit of innovation alive. Then take a walk on the expo floor to see the latest innovations in food ingredients and other technologies.
New this year is more convenient session length (90-minutes) and a New Products & Technologies Forum -- 30-minute interactive presentations -- on the expo floor on Sunday and Monday. There also will be technical field trips to McDonald's Corp. and Hamburger University, Knechtel, Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy, FONA International and Vegetable Juices Inc.
On Monday, the general session is "Senior Executives Cut the Fat on Industry's Approach to Health, Wellness and Foods." Industry executives will share their perspectives on opportunities and challenges in the fastest growing area of news product development.
On Tuesday, the general session "Where Do We Go From Here?" begins with a presentation of HealthFocus International's HealthFocus 2007 survey highlights on changing consumers' health, nutrition and wellness attitudes, behaviors and concerns and discussion of future food and beverage opportunities. That is followed by Innova's take on product categories with staying power, restaurant trends from Technomic and a presentation by Peter Barton Hutt on the regulatory issues facing the industry both here and abroad.
There's something for every attendee with more than 1,400 presentations and some 200 scientific sessions. They include: Global Emergence of Nutraceuticals; Antioxidants in Food Preservation and in Health Promotion; Sustainability Considerations in the Food Industry; Health and Nutrition Around the Globe; and The Changing Face of Organic Consumers.
On Friday and Saturday, the Chinese American Food Society will host a symposium in conjunction with IFT, and on Wednesday, there is an all-day International Food Nanoscience Conference and a timely all-day discussion on Global Food Safety and Quality.
On the expo floor specialty pavilions -- Healthy Food Ingredients, Organic Food Ingredients, Global Food Safety and Quality and International -- will be set up to showcase emerging trends. Mintel International will conduct educational forums and tastings of global food products and present trends in healthy foods.
Also mixing trends and tastings will be Innova, which offers a series of poster sessions and video presentations on food for seniors, healthy options, ethnic trends and beverages of the future -- as well as samples of more than 200 international products.
Back by popular demand, chefs from the Research Chefs Assn., teamed with IFT food scientists and RCA student members, will present live culinology demos with a theme. On Sunday, it's Children and Obesity; Monday, it's Campus Dining; and on Tuesday, Adult Wellness.
When your feet give out, relax and network with fellow attendees at the Conversation Café in the exhibit hall. Each day, tables will be assigned a variety of topics for debate and insight. You also will gain insight from the magnificent miles of displays and sessions to keep your product development teams on the cutting edge of food science and technology.
For more information on the food show, see www.ift.org.
Our kind of town, Chicago is
If you have some extra time, enjoy some of the sights and sounds of Chicago. Baseball fans can catch an afternoon game July 29 between the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays at relatively close U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park). Or catch an evening game on the North Side July 30, 31 or Aug. 1 between the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies at beautiful Wrigley Field.
On the museum front, check out "Shoot for the Moon" at the Adler Planetarium, which features astronaut Jim Lovell's journey, the fully-restored Gemini 12 spacecraft and his collection of personal space artifacts. Or head over to the Field Museum for "The True Story of Ancient America," from the arrival of small groups of hunter-gatherers, whose way of life survived into the 20th century, to the great but fragile empires of the Aztecs and the Incas -- empires that stretched thousands of miles, encompassed as many as 10 million people, and came to sudden, brutal ends.
Speaking of brutal ends, the Museum of Science and Industry offers The "CSI" Experience. You have a choice of investigating three different crime scenes, identifying evidence at the scene guided by investigators from the CBS television series "CSI" along with their real-life forensic science counterparts.
If water floats your boat, take the Wendella Chicago River Architecture Tour. Tours depart at various times seven days a week and board at 400 North Michigan Ave. (at the Wrigley Building -- the northwest corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, the start of the Magnificent Mile). Guides will provide you with unique insight into Chicago's architecture.
If you want a few laughs, take a cab for an 8 p.m. performance at The Second City mainstage theatre (1616 N. Wells St.; 312-337-3992). "Between Barack and a Hard Place" takes a humorous look at a nation divided: "Red state vs. blue, smokers vs. non-smokers, art lovers vs. philistines, dozens of potential presidential candidates vs. each other and the terrorists vs. … well, everybody."