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Startup Central

See. Meet. Discover.

Every day new food products come onto the market, presenting us with new flavors and textures as well as challenging us to think responsibly about the foods we choose to eat. But what drives these new products and what do emerging food entrepreneurs need to know to be successful in this highly competitive space?

Join us for FIRST Startup Central where you will see, meet, and discover emerging ingredients, products, and technologies from startup companies around the world. Where you will also access informative sessions and discussions covering insightful topics every food entrepreneur needs to know.

Emerging Startups Showcase Your Company at FIRST
Looking to feature your ingredient, technology, or food-related solution startup? Learn more about our Solution Exchange supplier opportunities.
FIRST Startup Central

Startup Central Program includes:

Thought LeadershipFeatured Keynote: IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ Pitch Competition
Host: Claire Schlemme, CEO and Founder of Renewal Mill
Wednesday, July 21, 9:30 a.m. CT

Join us for the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge™ Pitch Competition where five emerging and investment-ready finalist companies gain visibility and make strategic connections though a supportive pitch preparation and mentoring program. Finalists will compete for a $25,000 cash prize and a $5,000 People’s Choice Award. Learn more about our finalists below.



Sessions and Panel Discussions

Conflicted Consumer Demands Panel with Live Q&A
Wednesday, July 21, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. CT

Consumers shouldn't always get what they want. This panel discussion explores the necessary tension between consumer demand and product development.
Trends in 10 and Industry Insights
Monday, July 19; Tuesday, July 20; and Wednesday, July 21 at 10:30 a.m. CT

Join us each day as we share top trends in ten minutes followed by key insights from leading market analysts.

Meet the IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge Finalists 
Wednesday, July 21 at 11:00 a.m. CY

Networking and social gathering of competition finalists, mentors, investors and start-up gurus. 

Featured Session: White Space Innovation: Opportunities to Transform our Food System  
Wednesday, July 21 at 10:00 p.m. CT

Join us as we share an exciting new $1M Global Food System Challenge and discuss the power of small teams to make a big difference in the foods we innovate. 

Featured Panel Discussion: If I Knew Then…
Wednesday, July 21 at 1:00 p.m. CT

Join our panel of startup survivors as they reflects on what they did—and didn't—do right in launching their business; from supply chain partnerships, to vendor selection, to financing to IP protection, it’s a discussion you won’t want to miss!

Featured Panel Discussion: Small by Design
Wednesday, July 21

Meet a group of startups that have rejected the lure of big money to protect their vision and control and in return have been able to redefine success in their own terms.

Packaged On-Demand
Wednesday, July 21

Join us for a rapid-fire pitching power hour where participating FIRST startups share their innovative products and technologies.

Startup Meetup Discussions
In addition to the thought-provoking sessions and panel discussions, FIRST will also provide a number of meetup discussion sessions covering hot topics every food entrepreneur needs to know. 

Networking Social

Wednesday July 21; Time: TBD
We’re cooking up a high impact social event you won’t want to miss. Meet fellow entrepreneurs, innovators, and food scientists and product developers. Expand your professional ecosystem and have some fun. 

Program subject to change. 

Feature Your Ingredient, Technology of Food Solution Startup at FIRST
Fill your sales pipeline with five days of targeted, strategic networking, business development, and partnering through curated meetings with qualified product development decision makers, product developers, and innovators from around the world.