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IFT Member Needs Survey 2017 Survey Highlights

To ensure all IFT resources are driven by our members’ needs, IFT has implemented an annual member needs survey. In its second year, the 2016/17 survey has been completed revealing the needs of current members, as well as providing insights from previous and potential members. The results not only report on areas of success and improvement but will also inform future IFT initiatives and priorities.

Who completed the survey?

The survey was sent to participants on August 30, 2016. The survey closed on September 26, 2016.

Response: 3,641 current, former, and prospective IFT members completed the survey, providing a margin of error of only 1.6%. Note: the survey did NOT go to all current members. The survey was sent to a representative sample of approximately 10,000 current members, 10,000 former members and 10,000 prospective members)

Segments: Four segmentation models were used to study the data.

Work Environment (Student, Government/Regulation, Academia, and Industry)
  • All respondents: 15%, 3%, 11% 71% respectively
  • Within industry, the majority are in R&D/Scientific and Technical roles (45%), with members also working in sales & marketing (10%), non-scientific management roles (10%), and consulting (4%).
Location (Non-U.S., U.S)
  • All respondents: 23%, 77% respectively
Professional Tenure (Up to 5 years, 6-10 years, 11-20 years, 20+ years)
  • All respondents: 25%, 20%, 21%, 34% respectively
IFT Membership Tenure (Up to 1 yr., 2-4 years, 5-10 years, 11-20 years, 20+ years)
  • All respondents: 29%, 24%, 14%, 15%, 18%
  • The 2016 survey saw a 4% increase in younger respondents, 42% under 35.
Workplace Challenges
  • Internal: Soliciting funds or writing grants to support research (46%)
  • External: Lack of governmental support for academic food science (47%)
  • Internal: Career advancement (36%)
  • External: Educating the general public on food science issues (44%)
  • Internal: Communication among departments (29%)
  • External: Public perception of food science and technology and/or the food industry (28%)

What did we learn?

Perceptions of IFT: Current (64%), former (19%), and prospective (17%) members responded to the following topics:

Reasons for joining: Current and former members overwhelmingly point to the following three reason for joining IFT:
  • To stay current on information and news related to the science of food (51%, up from 39% in 2015)
  • Opportunities to meet and network with others involved in the science of food (50%, up from 38% in 2015)
  • Professional development and educational opportunities (42%, up from 29% in 2015)

Reasons for not renewing or joining: Former members cite cost as the top reason for not renewing (46%) but nearly 1/3 attributed not renewing to the benefits not being enough or they were not highly engaged. Thirty-three percent of prospects say they do not know how an IFT membership can benefit them.

IFTSA: More than half (55%) of student members feel engaged with IFTSA throughout the year.

  • Only 14% of students are representatives for their division or section; however, of those representatives, 76% say the experience has been meaningful.

CFS: 2016 saw a decline in those holding a CFS designation but a slight incline in those in pursuit of or planning to pursue the CFS.

  • 8% (down from 10% in 2015) of respondents currently hold the CFS designation
  • 24% (up from 23% in 2015) of respondents plan to pursue the CFS designation
  • Among respondents who identified as students, 44% say they plan to pursue the CFS designation in the future
  • 8% cited the ability to obtain or maintain Certified Food Scientist (CFS) credential at a discount a valued member benefit
  • Certified Food Scientist (CFS) Exam Prep Course was rated an importance score of 3.20 and a 3.09 on Delivery

IFT Performance Areas: Current and former members gave the highest performance ratings to IFT in the following areas:

  • Elevating the reputation of the science of food, food scientists, and related professions
  • Providing networking opportunities
  • Providing information relevant to my areas of interest within the science of food

Awareness of programs:

  • 97% of respondents are aware of IFT’s annual event and food expo with student competitions (92%), and annual event scientific sessions (81%) following closely behind.
  • Respondents are more aware of IFT’s advocacy training programs and tools, 60%, up from 43% in 2015. However, other advocacy efforts saw a decline in 2016.
  • Scientific Publishing/Reports: 67% of those surveyed were aware that IFT publishes scientific perspectives and reports (down from 71% in 2015). Of those that were aware, 85% said the work being done was “Excellent” or “Good” while 0% rated it as “Poor.” Meanwhile 74% of current members said that IFT’s Science & Policy work is “Very valuable” or “Valuable” to their membership, which is slightly higher than 73% in 2015.
  • Codex Alimentarius: 28% of respondents were aware that IFT is participating as an observer in Codex Alimentarius. Of those that were aware, 70% said the work being done was “Excellent” or “Good”, while only 1% rated this work as “Poor.”

Value: We asked current and former members about the value that they receive from IFT.

  • Cost vs value: 74% of current members believed that the value of membership was greater than or equal to the amount of the dues, while 16% felt that the value was less than the cost of their dues.
  • Most valuable member benefits
    - The ability to stay current on information, news, and trends related to the science of food (57%)
    - Meeting/networking with others involved in the science of food (51%)
    - Having access to information and resources specific to the science of food (47%)
  • Least valuable benefits
    - Competitions, CFS discounts, scholarships, and volunteer and leadership opportunities
  • Likely to renew: 96% (equal to 2015) of current members and 55 (down 3% from 2015) of former members said they were “very likely” or “likely” to renew their membership.
    - Those who do not renew cite cost and benefits justifying the cost as the reason for not renewing.
  • Likely to recommend: 95% of current members and 81% of former members said they were “very likely” or “likely” to recommend IFT membership to their peers.
  • Most Important Member Resources and Benefits: Respondents were asked 1.) How important those resources were to them and 2.) How well IFT delivered that resource – both on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the MOST important and BEST delivery, respectively.
  • The IFT Annual Event and Food Expo remained the highest ranking (non-student) resource or benefit in 2016 with an Importance score of 3.99 (down from 4.59 in 2015) and a delivery score of 3.74.
  • Second and third ranked were publications: Journal of Food Science with an importance score of 3.78 and a delivery score of 3.60 and Food Technology magazine with an Importance Score of 3.76 and a Delivery score of 3.62.

What’s next?

The survey results will directly impact program decisions within IFT. Taking into account other factors like cost, programs that are underutilized, or which survey results indicate do not create value for members, will be reviewed to determine what changes need to be made to improve results and/or if they require being retired, making resources available for new member programs and services. In addition, for areas where needed updates or improvements were cited, IFT will develop action plans to address those needs.

The third annual IFT Member Needs Survey will launch in August 2017.