AI Helping Restaurants Navigate the Future of Food
Carol Feigenbaum |
 10/28/19 |
6 min read

AI Helping Restaurants Navigate the Future of Food

Tastes change all the time, but rarely do we see significant shifts to/away from traditional staples in a given geography. But that is precisely what’s happening now. We have three bold food trends headed our way. And AI is helping restaurants stay ahead of them, and navigate the future of food.

It’s What’s for Dinner!

When deciding what to eat for that next meal, more and more often, consumers are making an ethical choice.

And it’s not about being vegan, as most of them are not. They’re just impact-conscious and seek to create the least amount of suffering and waste as possible. They’re “eating with a conscience,” as the visual below from The Scotsman shows. With half of its respondents sharing the belief that their food and drink choices make a difference to the environment.

And it seems they’re right, as food manufacturers and retailers are faced with corresponding shifts in production and sales strategies to keep up with these ethical eaters

“Over the past five years, sales of ethical food and drink have shot up by 43 per cent from £5.7 billion in 2013. This year, sales are forecast to increase a further four per cent to reach £8.6 billion. The sector’s ongoing popularity is set to continue, as sales of ethically certified food and drink are projected to rise by 17 per cent to reach £9.6bn between 2019-23.”

Ethical Eating, In Action

So, how are consumers eating more ethically, specifically? There are so many ways, really. Multiple points in the farm-to-table cycle for consumers to pay attention to. And it ranges from how their food is produced and where their food comes from to eating less meat. A few from the Masters in Healthcare site, include:

  • Look for fair trade. Fair trade foods will help ensure that the workers who produced them were paid a fair wage– especially important with foods like chocolate and coffee.
  • Avoid slavery foods. Fruits like strawberries and orange are often harvested by enslaved workers– even here at home– so always know where your foods are coming from or avoid them altogether.
  • Get free range eggs. These eggs are produced by chickens that aren’t kept in cruelly small cages– better for the birds and you.
  • Shop for grass fed beef. Cattle aren’t meant to eat corn, they’re designed for grass. The meat will taste better and the cows will be healthier– a win-win.
  • Choose seafood wisely. Some comes from endangered, over fished species and while other kinds will come from unsafe or cruel fishing methods.
  • Embrace soy. Replace one meaty meal a week with a soy alternative. It’s cheaper and better for you.

Ethical eating as future of food

Capturing Future Food Trends

And, as that last bullet points to (above) – these consumers are also considering a shift from meat to the very popular trend of plant-based diets. And restaurants shifting with them are following trending mentions around this concept closely:

Food trends uncovered with AI powered analytics

It’s not just about the ‘biggest word in the word cloud’ here – that’s important to note. Clicking through reveals the context behind each term. And it tells us what the conversation is specifically. And why a brand should or shouldn’t care.

For example, capturing a quick snapshot of what makes these ‘plant-based diet’ folks tick, we can see a variety of avenues to explore and possibly pay attention to. It all depends on a manufacturer’s niche:

plant based diet sound bites

There isn’t just human food to think about and people want plants for their pups as well. And they’re pretty convinced that plants are just better for your body. Period. It’s important insight to have if a manufacturer wants to offer the best of both worlds. There’s lots of nutritional myths to dispel and facts to accommodate.

But let’s get back to where this plant trend is headed and why you need to care . . .

Plant-based Food of the Future

Are we about to reach a tipping point, where plant-based foods become ubiquitous in the market? It’s very likely.

“With increased attention being paid to plant-based food, there is little doubt that the past year has seen such brands move more into the mainstream. Innova Market Insights has estimated that more than 25% of U.S. residents, many of whom are not vegetarian or vegan, report that they consume plant-based foods on a regular basis. The degree to which this market continue to grow is an still and open question, but it would be a mistake to ignore the underlying forces driving additional sales of such products.”

These “flexitarians” (part-time vegetarians) are vocal in the market. Very much so. And this trend is touching other categories as well – as can be seen in NetBase’s automated theme discovery in AI Studio:

plant based food as future with AI theme discovery

And one of those trends includes fashion. So, move over, #fastfashion as #slowfashion is creeping your way, fueled by veganism:

slow fashion as new sustainable vegan trend

But what happens if plants aren’t filling for these fashion-forward, ethical eating types? And they just aren’t filling to some, leaving consumers craving protein.

Well – there’s a protein source for those folks as well. Bugs.

Future Food Source: Bugs?

Phobias exist and there’s a gross factor to contend with, but a significant chunk of the population isn’t entirely turned off by the idea of eating bugs. Not if it’s sold as potentially saving the planet! It’s an “organic/sustainable pest control method” after all!

top terms around eating bugs as future of food

Though not everyone is on board – and there are associated concerns to keep in mind. Maybe don’t offer to insert a microchip in folks’ arms as they sip on cockroach milk in the comfort of their pod house?

consumers to make note of who are suspicious of sustainability trends

But the future of bug consumption isn’t really that far-fetched. Many are already a delicacy in parts of the world, we all know that – and marvel at it.

And we have ample supply of cockroaches in the world. So, cockroach milk and even bread are set to “save the world.”

Cockroach bread as future of food

But how do bugs, specifically roaches, taste?

Sweet, Fishy, Crunchy Cockroaches

For inside taste intel, we can ask folks in China. They drink concoctions made from ground up cockroaches for a variety of ailments. And it’s one of the many uses for the billions of cockroaches farmed to make “tea” for human consumption:

“When they reach the desired weight and size, the cockroaches are fed into machines and crushed to make the potion, which had “remarkable effects” on stomach pain and other ailments, said the provincial government. The potion has a tea-like colour, tastes “slightly sweet” and has “a slightly fishy smell”, according to the product’s packaging. More than 40 million patients with respiratory, gastric and other diseases were cured after taking the potion on doctors’ prescriptions, according to the official report, which stated that the farm was selling it to more than 4,000 hospitals across the country.”

Cockroach farm as future of food

But its popularity may be skewed by the fact that most people drinking it apparently missed the key ingredient: “On the packaging and in the user instructions, only one ingredient was listed: Periplaneta americana, the Latin name of the American cockroach, one of the largest cockroach species. . . . Several patients who had consumed the potion told the Post they were not aware of its content when they drank it.” Ouch.

But even upon learning, many just wished they didn’t know and continue on with it. If it works, it works!

And that thinking ties in to the third trend, one that looks at bit to the future: Food tailored to your genome to make your consumption optimally nutritious.

Future Food: Based on Genome for Optimal Nutrition 

“In the next 10 years, the emerging field of ‘personalised nutrition’ will use genetic tests to fill in those gaps to offer healthy eating guidance tailored to the individual.”

By 2028, we will understand much more about our genetics. Dr Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is one of the most outspoken advocates of this new science. He insists that DNA testing will unlock personalised nutrition. “I’ll be able to tell you what kinds of fruits, what kinds of vegetables and what kinds of wholegrains you should be choosing, or exactly how often,” he says. 

Personalized nutrition is gaining momentum and savvy brands and devoting research and development efforts toward it.

personalized nutrition as future of food

Social analytics helps manufactures stay on the cutting edge of these and other sustainable trends. They’re able to harness intel around the future of food with real-time, transparent insight that shares so much happening each day, as well as the ability to benchmark trends against previous data – up to 51 months of it!

using AI powered social analytics to track popular media

One never knows what new food source might be discovered next. But we can be certain that if something more appetizing comes along, it shouldn’t be too challenging to dismount Cockroach Tea! Maybe that manufacturer will be you.

Reach out and we’re happy to set you on that right path to make that discovery.

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