The future of food is being driven by the convergence of many exponential technologies. One of those technologies is Artificial Intelligence (AI), but perhaps not in the way that you’re thinking. Not in the manufacturing sphere, but by fundamentally changing the New Product Development (NPD) process.
As we all know the days of the 18 month NPD cycle are long gone, and it’s AI that’s further making a mockery of traditional human NPD and the ponderous stage-gate process. For instance, AI can mine consumer data for correlations and infer formulations from thousands of ingredients in ways humans can’t even conceive. Also, consumer tasting panels, despite the statistical and overall professionalism with which they’re conducted, often fail to predict real-life consumer responses. AI promises to remedy much of this shortcoming too.
Many food companies are already using AI to help develop products. An example is Danone’s three-year deal with AI company Brightseed. Brightseed claims that their Forager AI “is the first and only artificial intelligence to map the world’s bioactives and predict which of them have the greatest impact on critical health areas”. CPG giant Conagra uses AI to identify consumer preferences in “real time” so they can rapidly release on-trend products. A slightly different use of AI is by Nestlé in Japan with their “Wellness Ambassador” offering. Their AI combines DNA analysis with food and lifestyle to recommend tailored food offerings.
Another interesting company is Turing AI, who claim to be able to replace physical testing with a virtual counterpart. They combine their AI with their clients human NPD staff in what they call “augmented creativity”. In their work with leading UK supermarket Tesco, they claim to have been able to deliver 10 times faster end-to-end NPD. That’s getting into exponential territory.
Exponential AI technology growth is fueling fundamental changes in the very fabric of the food industry. Fast NPD, consumer simulation and rapid iteration of products using AI, sounds like technology to me.
Yes, food is now technology, technology is exponential, so welcome to our Techxponential Future of Food.
Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.