MCLEAN, VA. – It’s still months away and yet I’m already getting excited as we develop the Food for Thought educational program for the Food Processing Suppliers Association’s (FPSA) Process Expo, taking place October 23-25, 2023, in Chicago.

For readers who have never put together a trade show, a lot of planning goes into setting up everything, including a good educational program for an event like this. Specifically, at this stage show management has inquired with dozens of industry insiders to identify critical topics of interest for food manufacturers. You might call it a “wish list” of content that we put into our call for speakers for next year’s show.

Alternate forms of production, opportunities for automation, reducing a plant’s carbon footprint, clean labels, water use efficiencies, allergen control and labor-saving improvements that manufacturers can make to ensure getting product out the door in the most efficient way are just some of the topics for which we are fielding proposals. These proposals come from industry, academia and a variety of other expert sources.

Andy Drennan senior vice president Food Processing Suppliers Association FPSAAndy Drennan, Food Processing Suppliers Association's senior vice president. | Photo: Food Processing Suppliers Association

While some proposals apply to the entire food and beverage industry, others focus directly on specific industry segments such as dairy, beverage, meat, bakery, prepared foods and pet foods, as well as other less traditional segments that are experiencing tremendous growth such as alternative proteins, cultured meats and cannabis edibles. When your show spans the entire horizontal spectrum of food and beverage processing and packaging, you need content that speaks to these customers.

But the list of topics doesn’t end there. We expect to also include sessions on prevention of microplastics in food, natural refrigerants, predictive maintenance, data collection and connectivity, process optimization, product recalls, smart factories and total cost of ownership. In short, the purpose of the Process Expo educational program is to provide the theoretical backbone of food production in 2023 and for years to come, supplementing the practical manufacturing solutions industry professionals will find in the exhibits on the show floor.


A range of expertise

Reading through the submissions we typically receive can give someone a bad inferiority complex if you haven’t studied food science or engineering, but I choose to look at it the other way. It’s actually pretty comforting to know that this industry boasts the type of expertise that can address these important topics in ways that help us to grow and continue safely feeding a world of 8 billion people.

These proposals not only capture the diversity of solutions available to food manufacturers at Process Expo, but they also serve as a resource for these same professionals in attendance to better understand the opportunities for more efficient production, new products, line extensions and improvements in technology. Perhaps this is one reason why we make the educational program as accessible as possible for professionals attending the show. Our theater is located on the show floor and admission to these sessions is free of charge. Additionally, the schedule for our sessions is designed to help attendees make the most of their time at the show.

In my 20-plus years in this industry, I have been amazed to watch how fast technology has advanced for the betterment of all, delivering incredible variety and convenience ultimately to the consumer. What was once a very traditional, conservative industry is now anything but, thanks to the manufacturing solutions offered by suppliers to the food industry and the innovative foresight that today’s food manufacturers are exercising. It’s a great time to be part of this dynamic food industry, and we expect next year’s Food for Thought program to continue moving us all forward as both industry participants and as consumers who enjoy good food.

This program will be released in the spring, at which point food industry professionals will be able to sign up to attend the show. Whether learning from the theoretical lessons in our classroom or the practical demonstrations in our exhibits, attendees will have more resources at their fingertips that can help guide their way to the next big competitive advantage.

– FPSA provides networking, marketing and educational opportunities to the food processing and packaging industry.