Listen, Act, Respond, Counsels Incoming President Gillette
by Mary Ellen Kuhn
posted on June 7, 2009
Speaking Saturday evening, June 6, at the Awards Celebration, IFT Incoming President Marianne Gillette urged audience members to take the time to listen to what food industry consumers and critics are saying.
“And I believe that what we will hear will be opportunity knocking at our door,” she said. “We have a transformational opportunity, right now, to ask ourselves the right questions on how we can best address consumers’ changing demands.”
She said appropriate questions for industry members to ask themselves might include: “What is the optimal level of processing necessary to safely produce food while still meeting the desire for ‘natural’? How do we balance all the healthful scientific knowledge we have against the bottom-line realities of managing food costs effectively?”
Gillette then shared some predictions for the future. “In the future, I envision that any food or food component that is proven to provide positive health benefits beyond basic nutrition will continue to generate widespread consumer interest. Our media will continue to saturate us with news about product recalls, FDA and FTC actions, and bestselling authors will write about healthier and simpler food choices. Unlike ever before, food will reside prominently at the forefront of consumer consciousness.”
In fact, said Gillette, now, more than ever before, consumers are taking “a serious and very real interest in food,” which makes it “a wonderful era in which to be a food scientist.”
There is a rapidly growing wave of consumer interest in wellness and sustainable food supplies, said Gillette. “This surge in attention could provide a breakthrough opportunity for food science professionals to address food safety, health, and the wellness of the planet.”
Gillette also referenced the four pillars identified earlier this year by IFT’s Current and Emerging Issues Advisory Panel. The pillars include food security and sufficiency, sustainability, food quality, and health and wellness. “These pillars represent four ways to move forward,” said Gillette. “These are pathways to consumer trust.”
The incoming president reflected on the opportunities that membership in IFT affords. “We are members of the world’s leading society of food technologists. Our participation in this organization provides us, as a technical community, with the best perspectives and the best solutions for a healthier, more sustainable food supply. Our collective capability enables us, and only us, to address these challenges with the best science our companies can offer.”
Gillette concluded her presentation by urging members to “resolve to be an active part of the future of food science and technology.”
She also added a personal note, singling out two members of the audience who have served as a source of inspiration in her life—her mentor at McCormick & Co., Richard Hall, and her son, Robbie.