I sprinted in heels so I wouldn’t miss the Go Train, battled the rain (which being from the UK I should be used to) for SIAL Toronto 2017, North America’s Largest Food Innovation Trade Show. Verdict–SO WORTH IT!
The Enercare Centre is a huge venue and being a Food & Beverage Trade Show is overwhelming with regards to the variety of products, sectors and companies’ exhibiting (1005 to be exact). There is a huge diversity in countries that are represented, it reminds me of Epcot, only you get to sample food at every stop and there are a lot more stops to make.
Benefits for Students and Grads
For me, the amazing people that make up the industry are the reason I enjoy the show so much. SIAL have done a great job of providing resources–which whether intentional or not–are really useful to those just starting out in their career.
The Expert Hub
Panel discussions are available throughout the day on different food industry topics. You do not need to sign up for these sessions, they are happening as the show continues around them. They’re really informal and informative. You’re able to listen to experts in packaging, buying local food, starting a food business, clean labelling, food integrity etc. and then ask questions to the panel or have the opportunity to visit the hub if you prefer a one-on-one discussion.
As a student or recent grad still thinking about what path to take in the industry, you will be inspired by the hot topics being discussed from new plant based proteins to innovations in food waste and fugly veg! Did I mention you get to connect with the experts!
If you want to see some live video, check out the FoodGrads Facebook page.
La Cuisine by SIAL
Along the same lines as the Expert Hub–no need to RSVP, everyone’s welcome–this is for those culinary peeps who are interested in the wonderful world of foodservice and hospitality. Periodically throughout the day you can watch demonstrations from expert chefs, hear from restaurant owners and other related industry professionals.
These informal panel discussions are especially perfect if you are walking the show by yourself. They provide breaks in the day to listen and learn with others. You can sit and reflect, especially if you are new to these types of events or a little on the quite side.
Take the opportunity to ask questions to learn about the people who are working in this industry. I think the mistake that many students and grads make is to have unrealistic expectations. If you set a goal of landing a job (or even an interview) you might be setting yourself up for a big disappointment.
I’m not suggesting that this can’t happen but remember, the exhibitors have their own goals and objectives (and they have paid big bucks to be part of the show) so if attracting talent is on their list……awesome, but if not, be aware that talking about yourself for half an hour might not be the best plan. Instead, ask them questions;
Why and how did you get into the food industry?
What is your background/education?
What advice do you have for someone just starting out like me?
In doing this you might uncover a career path you hadn’t considered before or reinforce the one you’re on. You might have valuable insight into how to start your career. A single conversation could lead to you understanding the additional skills you should develop, a course to take, an introduction to a person you should connect with or association that will support you. Who knows, you still might walk away with a job, nothing’s impossible!
The Amazing People Who Make Up This Industry
The highlights of my day were asking an exhibitor how she landed her job with a health conscious beverage company. Her story was so interesting because she has a background in nutrition and now works in sales. When she was at school, this was not a path she had considered and her reasoning made tons of sense (I asked her if she would write her story for the FoodGrads blog….I’ll keep you posted).
Another was meeting Zahabia (Z), she wrote a lovely email to me after landing her first job and credited FoodGrads in supporting her during her job search. It’s a time when you can feel quite isolated and overwhelmed, and we were proud to share her story. That alone, made my day!
Wear comfortable shoes and bring your appetite as the food is delicious and there’s lots to try.
What do you think of SIAL Toronto? Any advice for Students and Grads?