AI and food: ChatGPT or ChatNPD?


By food futurist, Tony Hunter

Not long ago easily usable AI seemed a distant possibility. Then, like all exponential technologies, AI exploded into prominence, leaving the food and ag industries questioning the effect it will have on their organisations. If you had asked the public in March 2022, when I last wrote about AI, if they’d heard of ChatGPT, the overwhelming answer would probably have been “Chat what?” But withinfive5 days of becoming publicly available in November 2022 it had over one million users and the world would never be the same again.

What has changed in food and ag since March 2022? Most noteworthy has been the use of ChatGPT by Swiss company Vivi Kola AG to develop a new beverage. They asked the AI to formulate a vegan beverage containing ingredients with known health benefits. ChatGPT produced a formula including haskap berry juice, which the new product development (NPD) team probably validated. They then asked ChatGPT for a suitable four-letter word name (family friendly I’m sure!) and it suggested Nova, giving Vivi Nova. Lastly, to complete the project, they asked the Midjourney AI and the 3D Unreal engine to design a label. All of this is said to have taken just two days. Even allowing that this was development time spread over a few weeks, it’s still a remarkable result. The drink is currently on sale at retailer Migros in Switzerland.

This example illustrates that the biggest influence of AI on food will be through NPD. That’s because AI can consider ingredient datasets and their combinations which are beyond the capacity of the human mind to consider. It can learn and improve through feedback when it gets things wrong and reach optimised decisions humans will most likely miss. And all of this can be done in record time.

Will AI completely replace human NPD? Probably not any time soon, because it’s human’s opinion of food products that counts. But, with the rapid advances in AI, any company not including an AI team member within 12 months could be left behind by those that do.

But on the bright side, even if AI does end up destroying the world, we’ll have some tasty products in the meantime.