When National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J., exhibits at the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo, they go in a big way in the years the show is held at McCormick Place in Chicago. 

When National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J., exhibits at the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo, they go in a big way in the years the show is held at McCormick Place in Chicago. The booth measures 30 by 50 feet, has four distinct counters (including one with two cook tops and a grill), requires 1,500 square feet of custom carpet and takes a staff of 30 to serve,  meet and greet visitors. The centerpiece of the booth is a two-story tower with complete kitchen below and two meeting rooms above. The tower has special requirements that allow the company’s sales staff to conduct effective meetings with customers and the culinology (chef/food scientist hybrids) staff to properly serve food to the thousands of visitors who pass through the booth during the three-day trade show.

“When I bring my top customers into the meeting rooms, I want to make sure the environment is conducive to good discussions,” says Mike Jay, vice president, sales. “That means furniture that’s comfortable and looks good.” As for the kitchen, lead culinologist Janet Carver cannot compromise on food hygiene, so the refrigerators have to be spotless and maintain cold temperatures. The solution for National Starch was to buy three dinette sets and three GE refrigerators with ice makers and ship them with all the booth materials from New Jersey to Chicago.

“We would typically rent these materials from the show contractor,” says Marc Green, senior marketing communications manager and the company’s IFT organizer. “But with so much at stake, we thought the best course of action was to buy all new furniture and refrigerators, which actually saved us a few dollars over rental.” Because National Starch erects a booth this size only once every three years, shipping and warehousing the new appliances and furniture was not very efficient.

“We thought the best course of action was to find a good home in Chicago for the new appliances and furniture, and Habitat for Humanity immediately came to mind,” says Green. Habitat for Humanity is known for its mission in eradicating poverty housing worldwide and was recently recognized as the 8th largest homebuilder.

The donation required coordination between Windy City Habitat, National Starch, Art Guild/ Avalon (National’s exhibit builder), Freeman Company (the show contractor) and the labor unions represented in McCormick Place. Ron McEntee, senior account manager for Art Guild/Avalon reached out to all the parties involved to ensure Habitat’s crew could drive into the huge exhibit center, get their donation and head back to their location with a minimum of fuss.

Warren Callahan, CEO of Windy City Habitat was pleased to receive National Starch’s donation. “With the economy being what it is, it’s a bonus when a company we’ve never met, steps up to the plate to support our organization. With four houses currently under construction, the new dinette sets and refrigerators will fill some empty spots in the kitchens in those houses.”

Terry Thomas, National Starch’s vice president, general manager North America, who has overall responsibility for the company’s IFT exhibit, strongly supported the donation when the idea was presented to him. “I am proud to be part of a company that has a very strong tradition of supporting community activities, and this donation to Windy City Habitat gives us the opportunity to continue that tradition.”

National Starch Food Innovation is a leading global supplier of nature-based functional and nutritional ingredient solutions to the food and beverage industries.

National Starch Food Innovation