CHICAGO – The Research Chefs Association’s (RCA’s) annual conference and trade show was scheduled to begin April 15 in San Diego. The RCA, like many other trade associations, was forced to cancel the event because of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Association leadership is now pivoting to a virtual meeting that features a series of live and recorded webinars scheduled to be held April 20 through June 16 and promote the role culinology plays in product development.

Chip Potter, executive director of the RCA, said the association stands for elevating product development and cultivating collaboration among its members.

“While canceling the conference meant members will miss the networking opportunities, another major benefit of the event are the learning opportunities,” he said. “Sitting down and hearing from experts across a wide variety of topics is critical for people to use the knowledge and drive product development.”

Many of the topics to be covered during the Powered Up series were education sessions originally scheduled to take place in San Diego. Those topics include a focus on menu trends, flavor trends, food waste and food safety. But given COVID-19’s dramatic impact on the food industry and society at large, the RCA has added several sessions focused on the long-term impact of COVID-19 and how it may affect food and beverage business operations. The full agenda may be found here.

Sessions at the live event were scheduled to run concurrently during the three days in San Diego, but the RCA’s board decided to spread the Powered Up series over several weeks.

“It’s an easy schedule during Powered Up,” Mr. Potter said. “With no more than two sessions per day, it’s easy for people to jump into and out of to do their job.”

Justin Kanthak, segment director of snacks for Griffith Foods, Inc., Alsip, Ill., and president of the RCA, said canceling the annual meeting was the “worst case” scenario the association’s leadership began considering in late February.

“We had no idea this would happen, but the board began talking about alternatives early,” he said. “Much of the discussion was around if we would have to shorten the meeting or how a lower-than-expected turnout would affect the meeting? As we saw other trade groups cancel meetings, we realized we may have to do the same.”

The webinar series was one contingency the RCA was considering when the decision was made to cancel the annual meeting and trade show.

“Once we canceled, we believed we could translate this (Powered Up) to our mission,” Mr. Kanthak said. “Almost every speaker scheduled to speak in San Diego said yes to doing a webinar. It was really an overwhelming response.”

Registration rates for the Powered Up webinar series are $275 for RCA members and $525 for non-members. For complete details about the event, click here.