IFT20 Goes Virtual due to COVID-19

IFT20 is an annual event that draws in all types of members from the food industry.
IFT20 is an annual event that draws in all types of members from the food industry.

April 3, 2020 — The Institute of Food Technologists’ annual event and food expo for 2020 was set to be held in Chicago from July 12—15. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that has seen food businesses shut their doors in a bid to stop the spread, IFT20 has been switched to a virtual experience. The announcement was made this week to give exhibitors time to alter their plans and prepare.

The annual event hosted by IFT has been around for 79 years, and has been a one-stop shop for everything from new ingredient innovations, product lines, and technological capabilities. The event prides itself on providing a gathering where the food industry can learn what’s new in the industry, taste good food, and have meaningful discussions.

In a news release, IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean emphasized, “It would be a disservice to the members of our community and the broader food ecosystem if we were to cancel IFT’s annual event in its entirety.”

But what will the virtual event look like, and how are they going to do it? Holding an event of this magnitude in the virtual world is going to take a lot of hard work. Virtual conferences are not completely unheard of, but in-person events have always be a more preferred experience for showgoers.

For this event, some aspects of the show will not be able to be reproduced online, like food sampling and taste testing. It is expected that the show will have to pivot its focus more to scientific developments which can be presented in an online format more easily. IFT has acknowledged that it will be challenging to present a mix of exhibitors that will benefit a wide variety of viewers. However, they are hoping this will give smaller exhibitors, that may often be overshadowed in the event space, to make a bigger impact and stand out.

IFT is all about innovation in the food industry, and they hope that their virtual event will illustrate just how important innovation is during this time.