IFT FIRST's Innovation Lab invites attendees to an interactive product development progam

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/	Tara Moore
Source: Getty/ Tara Moore

Related tags IFT First

During IFT FIRST's Innovation Lab, which will take place as part of IFT FIRST Annual Event and Expo in Chicago next week, participants will have a chance to address multiple challenges facing the food industry in an interactive product development program focusing on sustainability, AI, circular economies and consumer trust, Jay Gilbert, director of scientific programs & product development, IFT, told FoodNavigator-USA.

Under the theme​, “Collaboration + Innovation: How Can Food Science and Technology Transform the Food System,” teams are assigned a consumer profile to guide them through five challenge stations that are shaping today’s food industry, including health and nutrition, sustainability, consumer insights, novel tech and food safety. 

Corrine Calice, senior director, knowledge and learning experiences at IFT explained to FoodNavigator-USA that the Lab is designed to address pertinent and rapidly evolving, obstacles facing today’s food industry, including specific attention to AI’s use in streamlining product development challenges. 

“Food and beverage product developers continues to face tremendous pressure to develop nutritious, low-cost products that are aligned to consumer needs in a context of increasing supply chain vulnerabilities or driven by climate change, conflict and rapidly shifting consumer demands or attitudes,” Calice said.

The program will feature “four very different AI applications from across the food and beverage product development lifecycle and food value chain,” which also includes 3-D printing, robotics and “a novel upcycling technology,” Calice said.

While the shifting demands of the food and beverage industry require a swift response from product developers, the Innovation Lab provides attendees with a “fun, risk-free environment that encourages exploration, collaboration and networking,” she added.

Teams will take away an AI-generated visual representation of their product as both a memento and possible design idea “for the next big thing in the food industry,” according to IFT.

Navigating complex consumer perceptions

IFT FIRST's Innovation Lab will give attendees a chance to explore a target consumer market and design a product that resonates with “their desires, anticipations and unspoken needs,” according to IFT.

With the rise of advanced technologies in food production within an increasingly globalized supply chain, such as AI’s use in identifying novel alternative proteins or robotics in indoor farming, consumer understanding and trust around modern food systems is paramount.

Consumer trust towards manufacturers and processors “tends to be low,” according to an NIH study​. 

However, researchers found that consumer trust can be strengthened “through product assurance and food system actors” through clear labeling that denotes product attributes, provenance, certification and food traceability, in addition to active communication from retailers and industry influencers about food safety and quality.


Related topics Food tech & digital transformation

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