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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Will a robot choose your food anytime soon?

The answer is: quite probably

Influential chefs have always had a massive impact on flavour combinations and trends. There was a time when Delia Smith could single-handedly be attributed to a mass shelf clearance of cranberries or any other ingredients, she demonstrated on a tv show. The rise of The Great Bake Off has seen mass consumption of all things cake. However, processes within the food industry itself are now beginning to change. We don’t have to wait for product developers or tv chefs to show us the way. Artificial Intelligence is now crunching the numbers and offering us more of what we like with a significant twist.

Photo: @foodess

Snail ice cream is so last century

We don’t have to wait forever or succumb to a Heston Blumenthal special. AI collects data sets at mind boggling speed and then mimics how we act and what we buy to tempt us mercilessly. How do you think we see these extraordinary flavour combos appearing on supermarket shelves in such rapid succession?

Firmenich Flavours President, Emmanuel Butstraen said,

“The Covid-19 crisis showed us that we must speed our understanding and response to consumers’ rapidly-evolving needs even more quickly – from providing tastes which bring moments of comfort & delight to enhancing wellbeing through plant-based proteins, like beef and other flavours. This development will increase our speed to market and help us to serve Customers and Consumers with more agility.”

This is definitely the future for food manufacturing.

AI is transformative and will help set trends for years to come.

With the specific challenges of an economy under some duress rich insights will make a profound impact in what companies do to encourage us to risk something new. Bearing in mind how much cooking has been done at home during lockdowns, across Europe and the UK to recreate a culinary journey, when there is no chance of taking a real one, is a definite money spinner.

Photo: Lynda Hinton

We are being given a chef’s expertise and experience through data collection.

Take humble spices, that have been gracing tables and cooking pots for centuries. A pinch of pepper or cinnamon is no longer enough and McCormick, the well-known spice giant, has decided our taste buds definitely need tickling by presenting us with brand new blends. This isn’t as a consequence of long-term in-house product development. McCormick’s new ‘Flavour Forecast’ offers consumers combinations that A.I has suggested and that might well be out of our comfort zone. We are being given a chef’s expertise and experience through the power of data collection. Photo: Laura Cortesi

Apparently, we are constantly searching for the next taste sensation

Many fans flock to McCormick’s Instagram page to see just what is on offer. This means there is an adjustment to new ways of flavouring our food. We no longer need a sauce, a paste of a condiment; we just need Mc Cormick’s XO sauce that combines all three into one product. Very quickly the food ingredients in your cupboards will date your culinary heritage unless constant innovation is your thing.

Photo: Marion Botella

The Foodpairing company is another centre of innovation

This organisation utilises data sets to recommend exciting and novel food and drink pairings. Machine learning points the way and food producers, bar tenders and restauranteurs can quickly adapt their ranges to suit contemporary tastes of that specific moment.

Be Wicked

The Wicked range produced exclusively for Tesco sells ready-made vegan food but has also developed a range of exciting rubs and spices like a Mango Masala spice blend and others in a plant-based condiment range. Derek Sarno, Tesco’s Director of this Plant-based Innovation, range said:

Plant-based/Vegan food is the biggest culinary movement this century and finding a good choice of complementary sauces as part of a high street shop has not been that easy.” The Wicked range plugs a gap.

Innovation without risk is a game changer

Therefore, if you can launch a new range that has an element of the risk removed it will help the food ingredient sector be more daring. When you consider that there are businesses that are capable of digitising human smell and taste we know that exciting things are on the horizon. Aromyx has been in high demand and its investment round saw a $3million dollar fund raise.

It seems you really can smell the aroma of money!

With Firmenich also announcing the creation of the world’s very first flavour devised through artificial intelligence (AI) this is a trend that will become mainstream soon. The flavour is “a delicious lightly grilled beef taste” for use in plant-based meat alternatives. This has happened simultaneously with the launch of Firmenich’s Biotech and Naturals Pilot Plant in Geneva. This demonstrates Firmenich’s commitment to digital transformation right across its significant value chain. It will benefit customers through offering tailored tastes and nutritional benefits while also offering the company and unprecedented speed to market.

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Therefore, whatever happens in the next few years, what the pandemic has demonstrated is the importance of creativity and agility to respond to and also predict the potential for change. AI should ensure the food and ingredients sector continues to monitor tastes in a reliable manner that is also done in real time. Insights can be delivered in hours as opposed to months. Rich insights will change food manufacturing and R&D dramatically. Course correction and product refinement will be much easier. I think we can expect rapid change which might well bring the zing back into shopping.

Of course, having the right leadership in any business is essential. It will help to drive the innovation enabling AI to work effectively while also responding to consumers’ rapidly evolving demands very quickly. This means staying ahead of the competition, taking market share and enhanced profitability. If you need assistance finding the right staff to help you achieve then do give me a call for a no obligation discussion around how we can work with you to enhance your existing teams.


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