On the agenda this year are engaging sessions and discussions based on the latest research, inspiring case studies from across the region and interactive panel discussions with industry leaders. Take a look at the day-by-day agenda or discover more with the buttons below.


Program PDF  Speakers Register

Day 1 – Monday November 12


4.30pm – Registration

5.00pm – Panel discussion: The consumer panel

We ask parents to tell us what they like, what they don’t like, and what they look for on a food label when they shop for food for their children. We’ll also take a deeper dive into eating and shopping habits. Do the kids eat at the same time as the adults in the house? Is it hard to get children to eat things we consider to be healthy? Are parents more likely to buy organic for their kids? Is it hard to find healthy options they like when you eat out? What drinks are the best choices? Milk? Juice? Water?

6.00pm – Trailblazers! Emerging brands – start-ups focusing on food for babies or children – will present their innovations to our expert panel live on stage for constructive feedback.

Expert panel:

7.00pm – Networking reception

Day 2 – Tuesday November 13


9.00am – Chairman’s welcome

9.05am – Turn back time:  Recovering 100 years of deterioration in the infant gut microbiome
Dr David Kyle, Chairman and Chief Science Officer, Evolve Biosystems

Babies being born in the USA today don’t have the same microbiome as babies born 100 years ago.  Increasingly absent is the single commensal species that, through its unique ability to consume Human Milk Oligosaccharides, underpins every child’s ability to thrive.   In his presentation David draws upon more than twenty years of research to explain how the near extinction of the commensal species has come about, the implications for infant and long term health, and how that extinction can be reversed.

  • How did we get here?  How infant formula, antibiotics and C-sections have compromised the infant microbiome
  • Why this is a bad place to be.  Threats to long term human health through disruption of the immune system
  • Where do we go from here?   New data reveals how we can turn back time and restore the infant microbiome

9.35am – Infancy’s Big Bang: Explosive growth and development in early childhood
Robert Murray, Professor of Pediatrics and Human Nutrition, Ohio State University  

From birth, infants begin an extraordinary burst of physical growth, organ development, and brain expansion. Based on exposures and experiences, a child will form the foundations for their future health, mental health, and cognitive abilities. Optimal nutrition is critical during this time. Dr Murray will explore the many functions of breast milk, discuss good and bad choices we make during the introduction of first foods, and present several ideas for consciously planning a toddler’s initial diet between 6 months to 2 years of age that will shape their dietary pattern for life.

  • You think the baby is just “playing”, right? The stunning sensory and motor exploration that builds the brain
  • Why is breast milk such a big deal? The dual functions of breast milk – nutrition & transition to protect the baby in the new world
  • What are we trying to do with feeding? The parenting part of introducing a baby to non-milk foods
  • What is a dietary pattern anyway? Thinking about diet as a positive, powerful force in your family’s health and well-being

10.05am – Panel discussion: Where next for babyfood?

Panellists include:

10.40am – Refreshments

11.10am –From terrible twos to preschool:  What are these kids eating?
Dr Erin Quann, RD, Head of Medical Affairs, Gerber/Nestlé Nutrition

In infancy and early toddlerhood, when children’s access to food is mainly influenced by parents and caregivers, they are often willing to explore new foods, eat vegetables and snack healthily. So what goes wrong when they reach the terrible twos?  As kids gain independence in their food choices and eat the same foods as the rest of the family, healthy eating often gets derailed. New research from Nestlé’s Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) reveals that too many 2 – 4 year olds are missing out on key food groups and consuming too many sweets.  That might not surprise you but, in her presentation, Erin investigates the extent of the problem, its potential long term impacts and the opportunities that exist to improve preschoolers’ food intake.

  • The need to start early – how good food choices can be fostered starting in infancy
  • Outside the home – why children attending childcare may have different dietary patterns.
  • Snack attack – how to get the most from inter-meal eating that contributes one third of daily calories
  • Building the future – how good or bad eating at this age can affect lifelong eating behaviors

11.30am – The big picture… Is the food industry helping or hindering parents?
Margo Wootan, VP Nutrition, CSPI

Food and restaurant companies assert that it is primarily up to parents to decide what to feed their children.  While at the same time, they bombard children with $2 billion worth of food marketing through advertising, in schools, advergaming on the Internet, contests, and characters on everything from cracker boxes to clothing.  Grocery stores and other retailers drive purchases through where products are placed, sales promotions, displays, and signage.  Unhealthy food marketing puts children’s health at risk, according to the National Academies of Sciences.

Parents’ interest in healthy eating for their children is at an all-time high, yet all too often, advertising, children’s menus, the ubiquity of unhealthy food and beverages, portion sizes, food pricing, and placement encourage overeating or nutrition-poor choices.  Dr. Wootan will talk about what companies are doing and what more they could do to support parents’ efforts to feed their children well.

  • Parental responsibility meets corporate responsibility. How food choices are influenced by corporate practices.
  • There is no neutral—how default options offered by restaurants and food companies exert a powerful, though rarely noticed influence over food choices.
  • Pockets of progress—promising approaches that are being adopted by companies, localities and policy makers to support healthy eating and reduce obesity.

11.55am – Why do so many kids have food allergies and what can we do about it?
Dr Steve Taylor, Co-founder Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska, Lincoln  

The prevalence of food allergies has increased dramatically over the last 25 years, with infants and children most severely affected.  Around 8% of American children now have allergies, often to multiple food types. Symptoms can be severe, even fatal.  While many outgrow their allergies, persistence into adulthood is increasingly common so that around 4% of adults are now affected. There’s currently no cure for such allergies, but approaches that promote the acquisition of oral tolerance in early infancy, or that achieve consistent desensitization, do show promise. Steve investigates new approaches to stalling the growth in allergies, and the opportunities those approaches might present for food industry innovators.

  • Why kids are allergic – the multiple factors that contribute to a growing problem
  • Why avoidance diets don’t work – inhibiting life quality and prone to risk
  • What peanuts teach us – clinical trials that prove oral tolerance can be acquired
  • Daily dosing – how immunothereaputic treatments can achieve consistent desensitization
  • Opportunities for innovation – creating food products that control allergies

12.20am – How should the food industry respond?
Joel Warady, General Manager, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Enjoy Life Foods  

How are food and beverage companies responding to the rise in allergies among children?


12.45pm – Speed networking – Grow your network with a series of four-minute meetings with your fellow attendees. Introduce yourself to a new contact every time you hear the signal and find out if you’ve got mutual interests that would make a subsequent, more in-depth meeting worthwhile.

1.30pm – Lunch with roundtable discussions – Tables will be hosted by an expert from industry or academia who will lead an informal discussion on an industry hot topic. Join the table that suits you best, subject to availability.

3.00pm – Fireside chat: Meals for kids!
Matt Cohen, CEO, Kidfresh

3.25pm  – Panel discussion: What’s in your lunch box? Healthy snacks for kids.  

Panelists include:

4.05pm – Refreshments

4.35pm – Building a kids brand: What we can learn from clowns & alcohol
Fred Hart, Creative Director and Partner, Interact

The children’s food market is expected to reach nearly $41 billion this year. Drawn by all that opportunity, droves of entrepreneurial parents are pouring into the space like spilt milk, creating a vast sea of overlapping, good-to-do brand stories. But there are issues that can’t be ignored.  Strict regulation around marketing to children dictates what can and can’t be claimed. Buying decisions are rarely made by children themselves and the real buyers – parents – are among the most impassioned, demanding and challenging consumers you’re ever likely to meet. For too long food companies have adopted simplistic – even childish – approaches to kids’ brands and, as a result, have failed to achieve the sales or brand engagement they hoped for.  So how can we do this differently and better?  Fred has some very grown up thoughts about that…

  • Why your parents are always right. We speak to Moms and Dads about what turns them on to kids’ brands (and what doesn’t)
  • Why you shouldn’t wear a clown suit to a black tie do: How to create brands that stand out without alienating people
  • Why it’s no bad idea to turn to drink.  Important lessons kids brands can learn from the alcohol industry (hear me out…)

5.05pm – The most trusted source: Earning brand recommendations from pediatric professionals
Brian Levy, CEO, Pulse Health & Wellness

The clutter and clamour of health information has consumers confused and questioning their choices. Through all the conflicting information, conversations with health professionals remain the most trusted source of guidance for consumers – particularly moms and dads. Pediatric professionals regularly discuss nutrition with parents, and they are eager to share information and product recommendations with them. This presentation explains how marketers can tap into these trusted conversations and earn professional recommendations for their healthy food brand.

  • What are they talking about?  The current pediatric landscape and the conversations professionals are having with parents.
  • Does it change what they buy? The unique role played by pediatric professionals in parental buying decisions.
  • Engagement and education.  How to build trust in your healthy food brand and earn recommendations from professionals to parents.
  • In on the action?  Putting your brand at the center of face-to-face conversations between pediatric professionals and millennial moms and dads.

5.25pm – Chair’s closing remarks

Day 3 – Wednesday November 14


9.00am – Chairman’s welcome back and recap of day two

9.05am – Fireside chat: The kids menu. Do we need one, and if so, what should chefs serve?
Diane Schmidt, Co-founder, Healthy Fare for Kids

Parents say they want more healthy – and more interesting – options on the kids’ menu beyond mac & cheese and cheesy pizza, but how do chefs come up with delicious and affordable alternatives packed with fruit, veggies and whole grains that kids want to eat?

HFFK has worked with dozens of chefs in the Chicago area from Rick Bayless, Paul Kahan and Beverly Kim, to foodservice providers at Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, McCormick Place and Chicago’s two airports. Quiz them on what works, what doesn’t, and how to make a healthier kids’ menu a win win for kids, parents, chefs and food businesses.

10.00am – Panel discussion: What should children drink?  

Panellists include:

10.45am – Refreshments

11.15am – School meals: Challenges and solutions
Pat Donovan,  Vice President – Business Development, Revolution Foods  

There’s no denying that healthy, nutritious foods can have a positive impact on young bodies and minds. A study published in the Journal of School Health shows students who ate adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, protein and fiber, with less calorie intake from fat, performed better on tests than those who consumed foods high in salt and saturated fats. In order to set our kids up for a healthy future, it’s imperative we teach them at an early age how to properly nourish their bodies and minds, and it all starts with real, wholesome food.

In his presentation, Pat will draw upon his experience formulating, marketing and supplying food for kids to highlight the challenges associated with the business of providing students with healthy, clean-label meals alongside how Revolution Foods has uncovered solutions to various restraints to now successfully serve over 2.5 million freshly-prepared meals each week to 1000+ schools nationwide.

During the presentation, Pat will touch upon the following:

  • The history of Revolution Foods; what it is, how it came to be
  • Key milestones in its quest to change the way America eats
  • The challenges of feeding healthy foods to schools in low-income areas and/or /difficult to reach communities
  • The restraints involved in supplying fresh school meals
  • How different aspects of the business complement each other
  • What the company has learned from its experiences

11.45am – Chicken nugget 2.0: Plant-based innovation for schools, QSR
Christie Lagally, Seattle Food Tech

Combating childhood obesity and other chronic health conditions is often at odds with the need to provide ready-to-serve meats in our school cafeterias, and yet “better for you” foods rarely meet the needs of school districts struggling to feed children with limited financial resources.  Furthermore, in 2015, the World Health Organization declared processed meat, such as chicken nuggets, to be a known carcinogen, and therefore should not be served to children, despite the convenience and low cost.  Seattle Food Tech is aiming to solve these issues by providing ready-to-eat plant-based “chicken” nuggets containing no cholesterol or nitrates (common in processed meat) and no milk or eggs (common allergens).  Through our innovative, modern production facilities, Seattle Food Tech is making it possible for schools to serve plant-based, ready-to-serve nuggets at the same price as chicken-based nuggets, and thereby allowing schools to address health, convenience, and affordability concerns of their school lunch programs.

12.15pm – Chair’s closing remarks

12.20pm – Networking lunch

1.30pm – Departures