The IFT Global Challenge 2018

Blessing Nwokocha, Reading University, UK
Published 29 August 2018

The IFTSA 2018 Global Challenge was a memorable experience indeed. It was an event packed with activities to educate, inspire and motivate.

As I arrived the Hilton Hotel Downtown Chicago, I was filled with excitement. I couldn’t help but beam with smiles from ear to ear as I walked towards the elevators observing the signposts signalling “IFT18 Registration”. Although tired from the journey, I was brimming with enthusiasm, as I dragged my suitcase along and made my way to my room. It felt really good; IFT18, First timer, Global Challenge participant!!!

It all started when I was selected to participate in the IFTSA Global Challenge after taking part in an IFST competition in the UK. The competition involved writing about the issues facing the global food industry in the next five to ten years. I started by carrying out an investigation on the global food industry and the contemporary trends. This little distraction was very different from my laboratory experiments and current research, so it felt wonderful to take a break and explore something different.

Arriving a night before the event commenced gave me ample time to tour the city. The Chicago River, in particular, was a remarkable sight. The following morning, there was the First Timers’ Welcome Session in a hall filled with students from different parts of the world. A briefing session for the Global Challenge participants was next, which comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from different countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, South Africa and China. We were a total of 20 students forming five teams of four. Each team was assigned a mentor from the food industry. Meeting these students and discovering the difference in our courses and cultures was interesting. The Awards Ceremony and Networking Events followed afterwards. These were great networking platforms. We were introduced to the board members of IFT and the student body. We were also privileged to be the first set of students invited to the International Partners Reception.

The air was rife with suspense as each Global Challenge team was called to pick up their challenge. My team’s challenge was the “clean label” trend, with the challenge of replacing all artificial colours and flavours in a nacho cheese dip, with natural ingredients. The Expo Floor was the major source of information for finding solutions. Prior to the conference, I had heard a lot about the grand nature of the Expo floor but the descriptions did not compare to the actual magnificence.

After several visits to the exhibition booths, holding discussions with exhibitors from the ingredient companies, we came up with a variety of options to formulate a new product, using clean label ingredients, while retaining functionality and sensory attributes. Important factors such as cost, legal requirements, ingredient availability and sustainability were also considered. With guidance from our mentors, brainstorming and the application of our knowledge of food science, we came up with three clean label formulations.

There were workshops on innovation and key career tools, such as, leadership for new hires, organised for the global challenge participants. These helped to broaden my outlook concerning my career aspirations. Other activities going on included poster sessions, lectures, college bowl competitions and division meetings. The IFT18 App proved quite handy in my planning of the sessions to attend.

I was one of two students representing the IFST. We were both truly privileged to be invited to dine with the representatives from the IFST and Campden BRI, in one of the top recommended restaurants in Chicago town.

Considering the benefits of taking part in the IFTSA Global Challenge, I would recommend every student to apply for it. It provided me with invaluable opportunities for skills acquisition and learning, such as, improving my ability to work in teams and enhancing my problem solving and creative thinking skills. Learning directly from our mentors and gleaning from their wisdom and experience, was priceless. Presenting our team’s solutions and listening to other teams’ presentations were key to improving my communication and presentation techniques.

Naturally, I eagerly anticipated and enjoyed my visits to the booths. The exhibitors were always so willing to provide answers to our questions and to share their recent developments. In addition, I amassed a number of useful literature and leaflets on products and new technology, several branded bags, and free samples from various companies.

The Global Challenge was so well organised that I found I had gained so much in so few days. The knowledge acquired has provided more insight into potential career options after my PhD. It has also broadened my perspective of the Food Industry and on how to channel my research towards addressing some global food issues.

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

The IFT Global Challenge 2018

Antonio Lonigro, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Published 6 August 2018

IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) hosted the “Global Challenge 2018” in Chicago from 15th to 18th July. We had the honour to participate thanks to the collaboration between IFT and IFST (Institute of Food Science and Technology). In order to take part to the competition we had to go through a national competition launched by IFST early in the year. The competition consisted in writing an essay (500 words) that identifies, explains and proposes solutions to a global food challenge.

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


At the International Partners Reception at IFT18 – Cindy Stewart, President of IFT; Antonio Lonigro, Sheffield Hallam University; Blessing Nwokocha, University of Reading; Margaret Patterson, Past President of IFST; Bertrand Emond, Challenge Mentor, Head of Membership & Training at Campden BRI and Chair of the British Section of IFT; Matt Teegarden, Immediate Past President of IFTSA. Copyright – Institute of Food Technologists

On our first day, after registration, we gathered all together and we 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. After being divided into groups we had to randomly picked 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, 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 to talks, presentations, scientific session, but above the majority of the inspirations derived from the expo floor. Thousands of expositors from across the world created the perfect environment for us to understand what is new in the food industry and what products could be used to overcome the challenge. Moreover, this was a great opportunity to create networks with experts in the field.

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

In the the three days at the expo, I have come across a countless number of new products that 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 own knowledge, scanning and researching all around the world for new ideas and inspitantions. This is a new skill that will allow any students to be more creative and open-minded.

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

Winner of the 2017 IFT Video Thesis Award, Zachary Cartwright, visits UK

Zachary Cartwright, a student at Washington State University, visited the UK in 2017 as the winner of the 2017 IFT Video Thesis Award sponsored by Campden BRI.

Focusing on Enology, Zachary’s trip included visits to the Campden BRI offices, attending the Food Matters Live conference and a wine festival, and touring vineyards and wineries.

To learn more about Zachary’s trip:

Food Evolution goes global!

In the last few weeks, Food Evolution begun its European Tour with screenings in Brussels, (European Parliament, Royal Society of Belgium for Science & Arts) London, Dublin, and Edinburgh, (Courtesy of USDA), Bucharest, (Science Festival) and Rome (FAO), Beirut Film Festival, Mexico City and Cape Town (SAAFOST Conference).

The film is now also available on video-on-demand platforms- iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and You Tube and also on the subscription platform Hulu.

IFT is also in discussion with affiliates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who are interested in helping make sure the film is available in many African countries in Africa where distribution can be more challenging and costly.

The demand for private screenings by companies, NGO’s, government bodies, universities and other institutions are on the rise.

IFT also has plans for the development guides which can be used in the classroom when the film is screened as part of a curriculum. A 52 minute “educational cut” has already been produced.

Further details and reactions to the film can be viewed at where you can also sign up to receive updates from the Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy.

2017 Binsted Lecture – Food Evolution

On 3 May, we held the first UK screening of IFT-funded and commissioned film, Food Evolution, at SCI in London. We had a fantastic turnout, with around 50 attendees from industry and academia.

We were delighted that Professor John Coupland, 2016-2017 IFT President, and Tom Foley, Senior Director of Membership were able to join us from the US.

The film was followed by a discussion led by Professor Coupland a6nd Professor Colin Dennis, 2015-2016 IFT President, and a drinks reception.

Section Treasurer Richard Benson brought along a book of minutes from the 1960s, showing us a fascinating piece of section history.

Food Matters Live

We held a joint session with IFST at Food Matters Live, on 22 November 2016 in London. We were delighted to have with us Amadeus ‘Ando’ Ahnan from University of Massachusetts Amhurst, who presented his research on ‘Anti-oxidants from blueberries: have they the potential to impact colon cancer cells?’. Ando’s work was featured at the 2016 IFT Annual Conference in Chicago, where his thesis video took the star prize for science communication.

As well as Ando’s work, the session included an update on IFT activities, information on the IFT British Section/IFST joint membership, and highlights from the IFT conference to provide an opportunity for those who could not be there to tap into the insights shared.

Science of Wine tasting event

On 14 September 2016, we had a highly enjoyable evening of wine exploration with Geoff Taylor, Campden BRI’s wine and spirits expert, at SCI in London.

Geoff Taylor’s experience and expertise in wine and wine-making is renowned, and his contribution is sought on matters as varied as the latest edition of Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine (“the greatest wine book ever published” according to The Washington Post) to wine fraud!

By comparing wines from the Americas with similar varieties from Europe, we took a delicious and insightful tour of the science of wine.