Companies like Conagra are using AI-based platforms to launch new products quickly to capitalize on changing consumer trends
Food and flavors have long been imperative to human civilization, and as consumers are becoming savvier with their food choices and home cooking, insights gained by using AI platforms are empowering the development of new products within months or weeks of the initial identification of an emerging niche demand.
More and more companies are today using AI and machine learning to expand and change their product offerings by capturing the consumer trend as quickly as possible.
So it was no surprise that IBM focused heavily on FOOD when it unveiled its “5-in-5” for 2019 – five innovations that will change our lives in the next 5 years, and the fact that well known food & flavor giants like Conagra and McCormick are embracing these new approaches.
100-year old Conagra Brands’ new CIO – Mindy Simon is helping the company to get a grip of changing consumer tastes by leveraging AI and machine learning. She hopes to quickly capitalize on rapidly evolving food trends by using AI-enabled platforms. The platform analyzes a wide variety of data sources including social media and purchasing behaviors and identifies trends that are then developed into ideas for new products.
The platform has directed the launch of products like healthy choice grain-free bowls, low carb meat meals, vegetable and riced cauliflower offerings, and even a dairy-based coffee creamer Reddi-wip Nitro creamer.
The creation of Reddi-wip Nitro creamer was driven by the AI-based finding that consumers would like to make coffee-shop-style drinks at home. This led to Conagra’s launch of Nitro Creamer and Sweet Foam in May under the Reddi-wip brand, which was invented in 1948 and was primarily known for its whipped cream offering. Ms. Simon further adds that before the implementation of the AI platform, it would have been very difficult to identify such niche growth areas.
McCormick & Company, another pioneer in the food and flavor sector, has also turned towards AI and machine learning to help product developers create new flavor experiences based on trends and consumer demands. According to an IBM blog post “…significant portion of product development work in the Flavor Solution segment is responding to competitive requests; being first to respond with an innovative product/flavor is a compelling competitive advantage.”
Dewey Warner, a research analyst at market-research company Euromonitor International, recently said “Consumer packaged-food companies can flourish if they can quickly sense consumer preferences and alter or introduce products to meet those demands”
AI platforms help in identifying hidden growth opportunities which were invisible before, as the relevant data was lost in a vast ocean of data. AI platforms help in pooling in all the consumerism data and consumer preferences, together with a vast array of other information in one place (sometimes called a data lake), and then transforming and organizing it in a way that the analytical engine can ingest it all and discern the underlying trends. These pools of data, and the analytical engines that sit on top of these big oceans of data have helped companies to focus on these niches of product growth.