Who’s [food science] cuisine will reign supreme?

By: Emily Wolter

I have always enjoyed watching Iron Chef on the Food Network. The thrill of being under a time crunch, the mystery of the “secret ingredient” and the innovation that flows from the chef’s minds to the plate is strangely intriguing. I don’t plan to make it on TV anytime soon, but I can take advantage of IFT Student Competitions to challenge myself in a similar way.

Yep, it’s that time of year again…all over the country product development teams are forming within the IFTSA community and combining their innovative ideas into what they hope is a winning entry. My school recently had our first meeting of the year and, afterwards, we had a short competition meeting to see what everyone was interested in, form teams and get the ball rolling. When I announced that those uninterested in competitions could leave because the general meeting was over and only about 3 people left, I jumped around like a small child on Christmas morning.


Well, actively participating on a product development team is an experience like no other. You will learn things that you will never learn in a classroom. You will experience the product development process head-on, playing a part in every step of the process from conceptualization to market, working with others who may have opposing ideas and interacting with industry professionals. However, it is a lot of work. A LOT of work. And to see the next generation of food scientists ready to take on that challenge makes me very happy for our future. Are you one of those eager future foodies? Not sure? Challenge yourself with an IFTSA product development competition!

We will be having an overview of each competition over the next few weeks, but for now, I’d like to get the ball rolling and give you some general tips that you can apply to whichever IFTSA competition that suits your interests.

  • Be ready to treat whichever competition you choose to pursue like a part-time job.
  • Read the rules. Then read them again. Highlight them. Know them. And on that note, don’t go over the page limit. The new rules state that they will simply be cut off.
  • Set mini-deadlines … Have a game plan and stick to it the best you can, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Bounce your innovative ideas off of industry professionals to assess feasibility and application to current industry trends. Large-scale production definitely requires a different way of thinking.
  • Utilize your resources to the very fullest! Don’t be afraid to ask professors, industry professionals and fellow students for advice and product donations.
  • Consumer testing – Consult panels before and after – see if the product is worth pursuing, and make changes to your final product based on consumer comments.
  • YouTube is a great resource with many videos on food production machinery and processing plants. You can watch how certain machinery works to get a better feel for what the production of your innovation would look like, which will make building the production scheme easier.

If you have participated in competitions, give us your best tip in the comments section of this post. If you have never participated in competitions, wait no longer! Review the variety of competitions offered to IFTSA members and decide which one interests you most.

Allez Cuisine!

Science Meets Food

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is a forward-looking, student-governed community of IFT members. Through competitions, scholarships, networking, and leadership opportunities, you’ll set yourself apart from your classmates (unless they’re members too).