The Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) needs to radically rethink its role and remit if it is to boost its ranks and raise its profile, members were told.
Speaking at the Institute's AGM last month, IFST president Professor Jack Pearce said: "I don't want to be unduly pessimistic, but the IFST really does have to change.
"Like any organisation with limited resources, the important thing is that we focus on what we do best and don't spread ourselves too thinly."
He added: "The annual financial situation is deteriorating because membership is going down and volunteer efforts are falling away. We need to grow our membership and gain stronger external recognition as the voice of the food profession."
A key part of this had already been achieved with the relaunch of the IFST website at http://www.ifst.org, he said. However, there were also plans to relax the membership criteria and strengthen links with secondary schools, he added.
"We would like to boost membership [from just under 3,000] to 3,500 as an absolute priority. We should admit anyone with a professional interest in food. Lots of people in the industry are currently precluded from joining because they do not have the right academic background [typically, a food science or technology degree]."
To reduce admin costs, the IFST was also trying to consolidate its charitable trust and its membership company into one charitable organisation.