FiNA Theater: Taste of Food ingredients North America: Women of color food scientists introduce heritage ingredients
Here’s an opportunity to learn—and celebrate—what unique research and development specialists bring to the industry. With global ingredients and modern spins on heritage dishes in the spotlight, opportunity abounds for disruption, from snacks to beverages to new takes on plant-based offerings. Each scientist will introduce an ingredient indigenous to her homeland and discuss innovative ways it can be used. The audience will get a chance to taste and smell each ingredient.

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Date & Time
Thursday October 26th, 2023 11:15am PDT
End Date & Time
Thursday October 26th, 2023 11:45am PDT
Booth #1350
11fa57c318fd46d063afb78f1c42fdaa-huge-phAudarshia Townsend
Content Director, Food & Beverage Insider/SupplySide/Informa Markets
A lifelong Chicagoan, Audarshia Townsend is a veteran food and beverage journalist who serves as the content director for Food & Beverage Insider. She also appears regularly on local and national media outlets to discuss food and beverage trends. When Townsend's not on the eats beat, she's an avid yogi and meditation practitioner. 
11fa57c318fd46d063afb78f1c42fdaa-huge-phAbena Foli
Founder, POKS Spices
Abena Foli is the founder and Chief Flavor Officer of POKS Spices, a mutli-award-winning, Texas-based food company on a mission to bring bold West African flavors to American groceries and pantries. At the heart of its mission is the West African holy trinity of spices, foundational ingredients in West African cooking, which is expertly incorporated into its products.
POKS West African products have won 9 awards, with 5 first place wins at international culinary and product competitions. In 2022, POKS Spices was accepted as one of thirty brands in the third cohort of the Target Forward Founders program. POKS Spices and its products have been featured in online and print media such as WFAA-GMT, Fox-32 Chicago, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Business Journal, Cornell Chronicles, Food Business News, Food & Beverage Insider, IFT Journal, Thrillist and Black Enterprise Magazine. 
Abena is a trained food scientist with over a decade’s worth of practical food industry expertise as a product developer and in regulatory affairs leadership, most recently as the head of regulatory affairs with a Silicon Valley based cultured meat startup. She is actively involved in the IFT and served as a peer mentor for the 2021 IFT Emerging Leader Network program. In 2019, she was inducted into the Emerging Leaders Network; a highly selective global leadership program for dynamic, high potential, talented and passionate food science professionals. In 2022, due to Abena’s passion and efforts to bring greater awareness of West African ingredients and flavors to the American market, she was awarded the prestigious Mary Lyon award by her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College.  
She is also a sought-after guest and panel speaker. Abena resides in the Dallas metroplex with her husband, son and mother.
11fa57c318fd46d063afb78f1c42fdaa-huge-phMonica Bhatia
Co-Founder and Co-CEO, EQUII
Monica Bhatia is the co-founder and co-CEO of EQUII and an experienced biotechnology executive with 15 years of expertise in scaling fermentation-enabled products from lab to market. Her prior work involved developing commercially viable processes for manufacturing sustainable biofuels, chemicals, food oils and proteins at companies like Solazyme, Geltor, Codexis and REG. 
Fueled by her vision of a healthier and more sustainable world through food, Monica co-founded EQUII in 2021 to create a high protein flour that can elevate everyday pantry essentials into a source of complete proteins and balanced nutrition. Monica holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Biochemical Engineering from India and a PhD in Biochemistry from University of South Carolina.
Category FiNA Theater