It’s a 98% match: How technology can disrupt the food industry
Ingredients, along with taste and lifestyle requirements today, form the core parameter, basis which consumers now make purchase decisions. It would be right to say that “Ingredients are the content of food”.
You probably would have noticed a small line indicating a “98% Match” when searching for shows on video streaming platforms. The OTT companies have coded a huge set of algorithms, which track thousands of parameters and tags behind every movie or every series that you watch and then use these parameters to create a recommendation engine which is so powerful that it makes you stick on these platforms and “binge watch”. But wait! Wasn’t binging all about eating a lot of food? And how come while our content is personalised down to each individuals’ viewing pattern, our food is still very generic and we all eat the same thing? Well, this is about to change and we are now moving into an era where we are going to “consume content, literally!” Its time food strikes back on content.
Let’s go down the memory lane, to circa 1990s where a typical meal on the dining table of Indian households would mean dal, roti and subzi with varieties changing depending on which part of the country you live in. Meals (especially dinner) in the house, were considered as a daily occasion for the family to catch up with each other and stay connected. Fast forward to 2019 and the food landscape in India has gone through a revolution, to say the least. There is beeline of global food chains that have entered India, retailers are also stocking global gourmet food products and ingredients, making sure they do not miss the chance to serve the growing list of aspiring master chefs in the country. Our dining table at homes have transformed into ‘food courts’.
Health considerations have significantly impacted the food industry forcing brands to change their product offerings to adapt to the changing demands of the Indian consumer. We now have all sorts of food be it keto, organic, gluten free, probiotics, nutritional bars, lab grown meat, hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics and whatnot.
Since the universe of food is much larger and complex than the content we consume, it too needs technology as an enabler in helping consumers make the right choices. Food technology platforms such as Spoon Guru Of USA, Whisk of UK, Nutrino of Isreal or GoToChef of India, are using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to help consumers to make sense of the food that is available around, suggest what’s good to consume, all personalised to one’s taste, lifestyle and dietary preferences. “The Netflix of…” is about to happen to the food industry.
Another factor leading to a paradigm shift in food consumption pattern is the awareness of food allergies. As it goes, consumers were not always astutely mindful of the presence of certain allergens to which their bodies might react at once. But today this scenario is changed. With new cuisines, come new ingredients with which comes new allergic reactions. Food is now getting under our skin and approx. 25% of Indians have at least one food allergy and this awareness is leading more than 90% of modern consumers to check the ingredient panel before they make any food purchases.
Ingredients, along with taste and lifestyle requirements today, form the core parameter, basis which consumers now make purchase decisions. It would be right to say that “Ingredients are the content of food”. Time has come that the type of ingredients you choose to have in particular products or dishes will help personalisation and recommendation engines to learn and offer you food items which would be “95% to 100% match for you”. Such choices will help you select foods which could be either categorised on taste preferences such as sweet, salty, savoury, spicy, etc, or on allergy-free foods such as gluten free, nuts free, lactose free, seafood free. Our selections could also be based on our certain lifestyle objectives such as vegan, low salt, high protein, low cholesterol, low or no fats, fibre rich and the list goes on. After all not every food item can be consumed by everyone and if that logic holds true, then we surely are moving towards an era where personalisation in food will disrupt the food industry.
( The author is MD and CEO of Spencer's Retail. Views expressed are personal)