With tradeshow season in full swing, I recently had the pleasure of attending IFT First in Chicago run by the Institute of Food Technologists. FIRST means Food Improved by Research, Science, and Technology and the show is IFT’s response to the transformative nature of the global food system. With over 700 exhibitors, including 36 PBFA members, IFT FIRST is a place where professionals can discover the latest global trends, newest innovations, and cutting-edge solutions while making strategic connections to advance their business and careers. Ahead of the event, PBFA partnered with IFT to promote the event to our members and ensure the plant-based industry had a strong presence on the showfloor – and I am happy to share it certainly did! 

Of the hundreds of exhibitors, many of the booths had at least half of their samples dedicated to plant-based and it was rare to see a booth that didn’t mention plant-based offerings in some way. Even the event signage addressed plant-based.

Working on the membership team here at PBFA, I am always excited to speak with our members and learn more about their stories and the incredible foods they make. 

Some of the neatest innovations I got to sample from PBFA members included the new chickpea-based foods from Innovopro, an awesome fermented beet product from Florida Food Products, and a tasty chai-flavored frozen coconut ice cream bar from Ingredion. 

Overall, I was so impressed with the solutions that were showcased at the show. It was clear that many of the ingredient suppliers and distributors in attendance would be perfectly positioned (and are excited) to jump in and assist our food manufacturing members with whatever challenges they encounter. There was so much knowledge sharing and community at this event. I am inspired and excited to do some matchmaking between our food manufacturing members and ingredient suppliers. I also had the opportunity to share more about the work we do at PBFA on Roquette’s Talking Protein.

Given the prevalence of plant-based foods at the show, speaking on PBFA’s work to defend companies’ right to use commonsense terminology on their foods seemed more pressing than ever. As the IFT show demonstrated, plant-based is certainly not a trend and as our membership and strength grow, PBFA remains committed to championing and elevating the plant-based foods industry to ensure a fair marketplace. Walking away from this event, it is clear that fostering communities where companies can idea share and problem-solve are key to promoting a resilient and sustainable plant-based food ecosystem. I look forward to continuing many of the exhilarating conversations started with attendees and exhibitors at the show and am confident that PBFA will play a key role in bringing the industry together.