Home Schedule Know Before You Go for IFT FIRST Attendees

Know Before You Go for IFT FIRST Attendees

Are You Ready?

IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo is back! We are looking forward to welcoming attendees from around the world to engage this year’s theme: Collaboration + Innovation: How Can Food Science and Technology Transform the Food System? It’s the overarching theme that will be woven throughout the entire event. Watch a short video from IFT’s Vice President of Meetings and Exhibit Experiences, Melodie Anderson as she shares some highlights of what you can expect at this year’s event.

Before you make your way to Downtown Chicago, be sure to carefully review this page for essential information and links that will help you to have the best possible experience at IFT FIRST.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page before you get to McCormick for easy reference.

FIRST Timers: Looking to enhance your experience as a brand-new attend at IFT FIRST? Watch this webinar presented by IFT staff members about how you can maximize your experience at the event.

Top 12 Tips to Prepare for Your IFT FIRST Experience

  1. SPECIAL ALERT: For the first time ever, you can save 15% off your attendee registration costs for next year’s 2025 event ONLY while you are at IFT FIRST this year! Take advantage of this offer onsite at the Registration Desk.
  2. Start planning your experience. View the schedule to see what is happening day-to-day. Utilize the IFT FIRST Event Planner to build out your personalized schedule where you can save your favorite sessions, events and must-see exhibitors on your desktop, or better yet, download the official IFT FIRST App for iOS or Android. NOTE: Your selections in the planner will automatically sync to the IFT FIRST app if you use the same email address to sign up for both.
  3. Check out the IFT FIRST Food Expo floor plan. See where 1,000 exhibitors will be located and get an idea of which ones you’d like to visit. This year, IFT FIRST welcomes nearly 200 new exhibitors including 34 who will be showcasing new products. View the floor plan.
  4. Schedule a Braindate. Plan to stop by the Braindate Lounge (located near Registration) to engage in meaningful conversations with your peers and colleagues. Browse the Braindate Topic Market to sign up for a topic that interests you or create your own. Learn more about Braindate.
  5. Discover your curated journey. To help you navigate your way through IFT FIRST, we have created journeys specific to the type of experience you're looking for at IFT FIRST. Check out the digital guide available in the mobile app with recommendations about experiences you don't want to miss.
  6. Sign-up for an IFT FIRST Workshop. Thinking about taking the Certified Food Science Exam or want to know more about food labeling requirements? There’s a course for that! Kick off your IFT FIRST experience with your choice of five pre-event workshops happening at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, IFT’s Headquarter Hotel. View course offerings.
  7. Select which meetups and networking opportunities you want to attend. Visit the Networking & Socials page and choose how you want to connect. Don’t forget to register for the Professional Networking Event happening Monday night, July 15 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker Drive. For only $75, you will have access to your preferred combination of division socials and other networking events to connect with old colleagues and meet new ones.
  8. Don’t miss the Startup Pavilion. More than 75 food and food tech businesses in all stages of growth will showcase cutting-edge solutions and applications. Last year, Startup Pavilion was the hottest spot in the Expo Hall. Will this year be a repeat? Attend the Pitch competition where businesses will vie for the title of Best Startup Pitch in 2024 plus a $10,000 grand prize courtesy of Seeding The Future Foundation.
  9. Block your calendars through Wednesday. It’s the only time to experience the Innovation Lab, an inspiring product development experience focused on solving key global food challenges. Plus, find out who from the Startup Pavilion has won in the Pitch Finale!
  10. Dress for the occasion. Dress for the event is business casual, so pack accordingly. Since meeting room temperatures and personal comfort ranges may vary, a light sweater or jacket is recommended. Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes as walking distances in McCormick Place can be long.
  11. Prepare for the weather. In July, Chicago has average highs of 84°F (29°C) and average lows of 66°F (19°C). Prior to traveling, be sure to check the Chicago 10-day weather forecast.
  12. Update Your LinkedIn Profile. The networking opportunities at IFT FIRST will be endless. Make sure your profile is current, so you’ll be ready to connect with your next colleague, mentor, or mentee. Pro tip: Do you need to update your headshot? IFT Members can get one for FREE during IFT FIRST. Visit the IFT Hub for your complimentary photo. Not a member? Join today or during the event.

Once You Arrive at IFT FIRST

This is important information to note once you arrive onsite at the event.

Event location

IFT FIRST is being held July 14 -17 at McCormick Place I 2301 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive I Chicago, IL 60616. More information about McCormick Place.

IMPORTANT NOTE: McCormick Place and the entire campus is cashless and that includes the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and the Marriott Marquis. Please be sure to bring a credit or debit card for concession stand purchases during IFT FIRST.

Map of the Area

Become familiar with the area including where your hotel is in relation to the event and popular tourist destinations. View the hotels map

Safety Tips

IFT is committed to your well being, so we wanted to share some important tips to ensure you safely enjoy your time in Chicago.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings: Chicago is a large and bustling city. We encourage everyone to be mindful of your surroundings.
  2. Utilize suggested transportation options: We encourage you to take the IFT shuttle to and from the event. If you’re travelling beyond the event or your hotel, take a Lyft, Uber, or taxi.
  3. Know your directions beforehand: Take some time to map out the directions to your destination prior to leaving. Stay alert as you travel back and forth.
  4. Remove credentials: Remove your name badges and tags when outside of McCormick or other IFT event venues.
  5. See something, say something: If you see or experience something of concern while onsite, please notify an IFT staff person, building security, or dedicated event security stationed at IFT FIRST.

Pickup your event badge

Badge pickup is available in two locations: McCormick Place, Grand Concourse, South Hall and at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker. Dates and times are listed below:

  • Saturday, July 13 (Exhibitors only)
    10:00 am – 5:00 pm (McCormick Place, 2301 S. Martin Luther King Jr.)
  • Sunday, July 14
    9:00 am – 7:00 pm (McCormick Place, 2301 S. Martin Luther King Jr.)
    12:00 pm – 7:00 pm (Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker Drive)
  • Monday, July 15
    7:00 am – 5:00 pm (McCormick Place, 2301 S. Martin Luther King Jr.)
    7:00 am – 8:30 pm (Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 East Wacker Drive)
  • Tuesday, July 16
    7:00 am – 5:00 pm (McCormick Place, 2301 S. Martin Luther King Jr.)
  • Wednesday, July 17*
    7:00 am – 4:30 pm (McCormick Place, 2301 S. Martin Luther King Jr.)
    * Food Expo Closes at 4:00 pm

Pro tip: Skip the lines at registration on Monday by picking up your badge starting Sunday at 9 am. Head to the Grand Concourse – South Hall in McCormick Place or better yet, drop by the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker Drive either Sunday or Monday to grab your badge early.

Food Expo hours

The IFT FIRST Food Expo will be open

  • Monday, July 15 (10:00 am – 5:00 pm)
  • Tuesday, July 16 (10:00 am – 5:00 pm)
  • Wednesday, July 17 (10:00 am – 4:00 pm)


Chicago has many great ways to get around the city. In addition to rideshares and taxis, you can also utilize Divvy Bikes and city buses. Check out the transportation page on the event website for more information.

Also, don’t forget that shuttles will be running to and from McCormick Place throughout much of the event for all attendees who are staying at the room block hotels. View shuttle information.

Are you driving to IFT FIRST? Reserved parking is available!

Dining and Exploring Chicago

Come discover Chicago’s famed restaurants, renowned museums, stunning lakefront, groundbreaking music, award-wining theatres, 300 parks and greens spaces, iconic architecture – all within 77 vibrant, ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

Here is a list of great Chicago restaurants located near IFT FIRST. Be sure to check out Chicago Concierge’s complimentary service for making dining reservations and planning your exploration during your stay. Please visit Choose Chicago’s website for more information regarding things to do in this great city of Chicago.

IMPORTANT NOTE: To ensure a seamless visit to Chicago, be sure to make reservations ahead of time for all restaurants, activities, and special events.

Social Media

Be sure to let others know about your IFT FIRST experience by sharing on your social media channels. Use our official hashtag: #IFTFIRST

IFT FIRST Programming

The Expo Experience

Are you ready to see, taste, and feel all the latest science of food innovations happening in the Expo Hall? It is here that you will find cutting-edge trends, products, and information that is transforming the global food system. Read about all the experiences happening in the Expo Hall. Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to be inspired.

The Food Expo

With 1,000+ exhibitors showcasing food and food science intelligence, non-stop samplings, demos, and tastings, the opportunities for attendees to connect with the most qualified ingredient, equipment, and technology providers are plentiful.

IFT’s Exhibitor Locator Service makes it easy for attendees to find the best solution providers to support the products and services they are seeking.

You can start your exhibitor game plan now with the two resources below:

View Exhibitor List      Review Expo Floor Plan

Here are a few more IFT FIRST experiences that you won’t want to miss.

  • Taste of Science features 15-minute presentations showcasing how ingredients and science meld together plus sample tours based on the featured ingredients.
  • Self-guided Expo Hall Tours where attendees can grab a map to find exhibitors showcasing new products and services.
  • Wellness Lounge is where you can hold meetings with colleagues, check your email, and charge your mobile devices.

Business FIRST Stage

Presented by IFT’s flagship magazine, Food Technology, Business FIRST sessions are high-impact live panel discussions focused on topics impacting the future of food including product development, supply chain failure, and marketing to investors and consumers. Be sure to review all the awesome programming and inspire your inner entrepreneur.


Stop by IFT Hub where you’ll strengthen your bonds and professional connections with peers through numerous events, meet Section Leaders, enjoy food science trivia games, and more! IFT Members! Stop by to say hello, customize your name badge with ribbons and get your complimentary professional headshot.

Startup Pavilion

This experience is the place where attendees can interact with more than 75 food and food tech businesses that are in all stages of growth and development. Be sure to watch The Pitch – a speed pitch competition for participating startups who are sharing their vision on why their business is moving the future of food forward.

The Pitch rounds will take place on Monday and Tuesday at 11am and 4pm, with the finale on Wednesday at 11am. Participants have a chance to receive up to $10,000 dollars presented by Seeding The Future Foundation. Learn more about Startup Pavilion.

Networking & Socials

One of the top reasons that attendees come to IFT FIRST is to connect and collaborate with their peers. IFT has significantly amped up the ways attendees can network at the event. In addition to attending up to 24 Division Socials during the Professional Networking event happening Monday night at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive, event participants can also engage through numerous meetup opportunities based on shared and/or similar interests at McCormick Place during IFT FIRST. Explore more than 30 opportunities that have been curated for attendees to connect and collaborate at Networking & Socials. From identity-based networking hours to Braindates, we want to help foster a sense of community and belonging.

EXERCISE TIP: Participate in the Fun Run + Walk on Tuesday, July 16 from 6:30 am – 8:00 am. Get your heart rate up while raising funds for student scholarships through IFT’s Feeding Tomorrow Fund.

Science FIRST

With keynotes, featured sessions plus one special session all focused on this year's theme, there is no shortage of science at IFT FIRST. Read on for more details about Science FIRST programming at IFT FIRST.


These sessions are the daily pacesetters for each day where presenters will focus on the ways that innovation can be leveraged to transform food system, ensure a healthy people and planet and ways to better understand how organizational size can impact the success of innovation. Read more about all the sessions and presenters (including the ones listed below) at Keynotes and Featured Sessions.

Featured Sessions + A Special Session

Following each day’s keynotes, the day will continue with additional sessions that align with the five focus areas: Novel Technology and Innovation, Sustainability and Climate, Health and Nutrition, Food Safety and Consumer Insights and Education. These critical areas are the pillars of the scientific program and help provide intentionality to the Science FIRST program and overall experience. You also won’t want to miss a special session sponsored by IFT Journals focused on Ultra-processed Foods. Do you have questions that you want the panel to address live during the session? Submit them here.

Scientific & Technical Forums

The forum discussions are 21 interdisciplinary discussions focused on guiding questions that were submitted by science of food community from around the world and curated by the Annual Meeting Scientific Program Advisory Panel (AMSPAP). These sessions happening Monday and Tuesday are located on Level 4 of McCormick Place. And new for this year, you can continue the conversation with a Braindate immediately following the session. Check out discussion topics on the Braindate Topic Market.

Individual Presentations

You asked and we listened! Individual presentations are back, with more than 55 sessions focused on specialized topics from AI and Consumer Trends to Food Safety and Sensory plus everything in between. Hear the latest and greatest research, science, and innovations from top science of food community members from across academia, industry and government.

Research Showcase & Posters

Showcasing on Monday and Tuesday in the Expo Hall, attendees will get to explore nearly 450 posters featuring cutting-edge science and watch live presentations focused on ground-breaking research at the Research stage. Learn more at Posters & Research Showcase.

Fireside Chats

Gather around the virtual campfire to bring the future of food into focus while discussing current trends and opportunities. You’ll want to find time to squeeze these 20-minute conversations into your schedule on Monday and Tuesday in the Expo Hall.

Innovation Lab

Block your calendars to stay through Wednesday for Innovation Lab. It's an immersive, experiential journey where attendees can brainstorm a product, concept, or idea for a real-life consumer profile while being challenged by some of the most pressing crises facing the world today. Learn more about Innovation Lab.


Need Additional Assistance?

Please visit our comprehensive Contact Us.

Additional contact information also is located below.

Registration & Housing
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Central Time
Toll-Free: 1.877.305.5195
International: +1.980.819.4638

Mobile App, Planner and Exhibitor Directory Site
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 7:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Central Time
Toll-Free: 888.527.8823
International: +1.513.527.8823

General IFT FIRST Questions
Email: [email protected]
Toll-Free: 1.800.IFT.FOOD (800.438.3663)
International: +1.312.782.8424

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