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2024 Ohio Food Industry Summit


Ohio Food Industry Summit

April 2nd, - 9 am - 3 pm

Our annual summit returns with thought provoking and informative keynotes, interactive breakout sessions, great food and of course networking with leaders in the food space.

Keynote Speaker

“The rapid evolution of Generative Ai and its impact on our operations today, next week and next year in the Food Processing Industry”

John Edwards, EVP, Partner – Communica

It’s only been seven months since John Edwards joined our members to present on Ai at our CIFT Member Appreciation Event and the landscape has already evolved drastically. His presentation was so well received and we had so many requests for him to speak again we have invited him back to give an updated presentation on the changes we are already seeing and their applications and their impact on our industry. We are excited to have him join us again for this rare repeat speaking opportunity.

John Edwards is an EVP/Partner at Communica, focusing on the integration and implementation of best-practice marketing tools, tactics, and technologies for clients.  Focusing on both B2B and B2C organizations, his customers span a wide range of industries including manufacturing, consumer products, media, telecommunications, e-commerce, healthcare, and professional services. John has also worked for, and with, some of the world’s leading brands including AOL, Netscape, TimeWarner, Apple, Walmart, CNN, and others to increase the impact of marketing programs within their business.


“The Future of Food Manufacturing: Technology and the Workforce”

Jacob Hall – The Manufacturing Millennial

Thousands retire daily from the manufacturing workforce and the lack of future generations entering manufacturing results in many companies scrambling to fill production demands, keep equipment running, and automate their organizations and processes. We must work together to change the misconceptions of
manufacturing and drive awareness to new solutions such as digitization, automation, and robotics. In this Keynote, we will discuss how manufacturers are finding success in:

  • Leverage the latest technology in new ways that is beneficial to manufacturers and the workforce.
  • Adapting new types of automation from the Smart Factory
  • Building excitement in the next generation for manufacturing careers
  • Engaging with existing workers on upskilling and job satisfaction.

Jake Hall is known as the Manufacturing Millennial. With over a decade of experience working with manufacturers, system integrators, and distributors in the manufacturing and automation industry, he understands the importance of advocating smart automation, robotics, and skilled trades. But more importantly, he recognizes the need and demand for companies and organizations to begin attracting and mentoring the future skilled workforce of upcoming generations.

With Jake’s personal brand, the “Manufacturing Millennial,” he has created an audience of 75,000+ followers with over 100 million views on social media. But Jake’s advocacy doesn’t stop online; he is an active keynote speaker giving over 40 presentations discussing the future of our industry and how it needs to change through technology, culture, and workforce.

When Jake isn’t advocating manufacturing, you’ll find him watching the Chicago Cubs, smoking BBQ, fishing, or building Lego with his two daughters.


“The Packaging/Packaged Goods Connection: Insights on How Packaging Influences Opportunities in the Food & Beverage Market”

Jennifer Christ –

Manager, Consumer & Commercial Goods; Freedonia Industry Studies

Manager, Food & Beverage Research; Packaged Facts

Jennifer Christ is a skilled market research analyst with 25 years of experience sizing markets, forecasting demand, tracking industry trends, and analyzing consumer trends and key market opportunities.

She has authored more than 90 studies and supervised the production of many more, primarily in consumer and light commercial markets, from lawn and garden, home goods, and DIY activity to technical textiles to packaging and food and beverages.

Her research and analysis has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Fortune, Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times, and a variety of other general interest and industry-specific publications.

She currently works at The Freedonia Group and Packaged Facts, premier international industry research publishers and divisions of

Breakout sessions

What a Waste: Holistic View of Water in Food Manufacturing

Dr. David Phinney- Phinney Consulting LLC

“What a Waste: Holistic View of Water in Food Manufacturing”

No matter what your product portfolio looks like, water is a crucial part of any food or beverage manufacturing operation. Whether you use it as an ingredient, a process aid, or a sanitation tool, learn how you can leverage your water use to work for you.

Dr. David Phinney has been working in the Food Energy and Water (FEW) space industrially for over a decade with specific success translating innovations in manufacturing to the reality on the plant floor. Owner operator in Phinney Consulting LLC and Industrial Water Solutions, Dr. Phinney can provide quick support for all you water needs focusing on total water systems optimization from water source, to wastewater discharge – and everything between.

“Ohio State Research Update Breakout”

Dr. Yael Vodovotz

“Bio-based compostable products for food packaging applications”

Packaging, primarily food packaging, utilizes the most petroleum based plastic and is the largest contributor to municipal solid waste. The development of bioalternatives to conventional plastics is now a priority of the food packaging industry. Bioplastics are polymers that are either biobased (fully or partially), or biodegradable, or both. This talk will provide an overview of our laboratroy’s research and development successes in bioplastic materials including coatings, focusing on food packaging applications. Bioplastics are compared to their conventional counterparts with respect to their mechanical, thermal, barrier, and processability properties. The gaps between bio- and conventional plastics in food packaging will be elucidated.

Dr. Yael Vodovotz received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Massachusetts in food science followed by a postdoctoral position at NASA as part of a joint effort between University of Houston and NASA-Johnson Space Center where she worked on various aspects of the Advanced Life Support food system as well as teaching at the University of Houston. Her NASA work continued as an Assistant Professor at Baylor Medical School, part of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. She joined The Ohio State Department of Food Science and Technology as an Assistant Professor in 2000, and is currently a Professor. She became Center Director for the Center for Advanced Functional Foods, Research and Entrepreneurship (( in 2016.  Dr. Vodovotz and has been working on physico-chemical and molecular properties of foods and bioplastics and has over 100 publications. She has been working with an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Horticulture and Plant Science and Chemical and Biomplecular Engineering to advance the field of bioplastics for packaging applications and is team lead of Alternative Matters (  Key to their approach is to translate innovative research to the commercial market through industry collaborations. 

Dr. Dennis Heldman

“Food Waste and Sustainability”

Currently, 25-30 % of the food in the U.S. supply chain is wasted after being delivered to the consumer.  In addition to the losses to the economy and nutritional value, these wastes represent a significant waste of energy and fresh water. To achieve a more sustainable food supply chain, each sector of the supply chain must become more efficient in transforming raw materials and ingredients into consumer products. The improved efficiency must include technologies to reduce food waste after the products are acquired by the consumer. This presentation will focus on sustainability and the life-cycle assessments being proposed for qualification of sustainability.

Dennis R. Heldman was awarded B.S. (1960) and M.S. (1962) degrees from The Ohio State University, and PhD (1965) from Michigan State University. In 1966, he joined the faculty at MSU. In 1984, he became VP of Process R&D at Campbell Soup Company, then moved to the National Food Processors Association as Executive VP of Scientific Affairs in 1986. In 1991, Heldman joined the Weinberg Consulting Group Inc. He was Professor at the University of Missouri in 1992 to 1998. From 1998 to 2004, Heldman was Professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and was a consultant involved in applications of engineering concepts to food processing from 2004-12. In August, 2012, he joined the faculty at The Ohio State University as Dale A. Seiberling Endowed Professor of Food Engineering.


Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center
100 Green Meadows Dr S
Lewis Center (North of Columbus)
OH 43035
To book a room at a discounted rate by March 4th use this link – Book here


Early bird member $90 (through 2/29)

Early bird non member $125 (through 2/29)

Member $110

Non member $150

Tentative Program