Food in a Changing World: Insights from the 2023 NZIFST conference, Dunedin

Marie, our venture analyst, recently joined the food science community for the annual New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology (NZIFST) conference in early July 2023. The theme of this year's conference, "Food in a Changing World," resonated deeply with the attendees as they exchanged knowledge, innovations, and ideas on the evolving global food landscape.

Panel discussions and presentations covered a wide range of topics all along the food value chain. A particular emphasis was put on food circularity (and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation was at the core of the discussions), alternative proteins, food waste, nutrition insights, all under the lens of sustainability, health, and climate change, and emphasising that the integrity of our food supply is intrinsically linked to sustainable practices.

The conference underscored the role of food science in promoting better health outcomes. Among others, the Riddet Institute and Plant and Food Research animated sessions on the nutritional quality of plant-based foods, the structure of food and its impact on digestion, providing crucial insights into the dietary shifts that society needs to consider for optimal health.

One of the standout sessions was the panel discussion on food waste. The discussion, involving academia researchers, experts from the industry, NZ Food waste champions, and government representatives, debated on the challenges that food waste poses, and the solutions we can foresee to drastically reduce our global impact through the reduction of food waste. The Kai commitment, which is an agreement between leading food businesses to reduce food waste and related emissions across Aotearoa New Zealand’s food value chain was also discussed.

The exhibition floor was bustling with vendors displaying the latest technologies, research findings, and products in the field of food science.

Throughout the conference, one could feel the passion and commitment of attendees to not only address the challenges of a changing world but to use those challenges as opportunities for innovation, evolution, and growth.

The "Food in a Changing World" NZIFST conference reminded us of the importance of innovation, collaboration, and adaptability in the face of changing global dynamics. Attendees left Dunedin with a renewed understanding of the food industry's role in addressing global issues, and with a strengthened network of professionals and peers who share their commitment to keep pushing the boundaries and create solutions to make a more sustainable, healthy, and food-secure world.