The company has developed an artificial intelligence platform to help early-stage product developers by producing trends research that is forward-looking and centred on ‘intelligent exploration’ as a means to identify ‘novel opportunities’.
Spoonshot leverages machine learning and food science infused algorithms to deliver personalised insights and trend predictions, identifying emerging innovation opportunities for packaged food and beverage manufacturers.
“We process billions of diverse data points spread over 900 sources in the domain of food. We specifically focus on long-tail data as we see stronger early signal indicators of future trends. The types of data we analyse include (but are not limited to) scientific research papers, food communities, niche e-commerce portals, and media platforms,” CEO and co-founder Kishan Vasani told FoodNavigator.
Spoonshot also looks at data from more than 7.8m CPG products, menus and recipes.
Connecting the data dots
While there are other AI-based trend prediction technologies entering the market, Spoonshot distinguishes itself by combining AI with food science, Vasani claimed.
“The power of our technology lies in how we combine AI and fundamental sciences, chemistry and biology. We look at the web as a giant connection of information dots, except that the connections are yet to be established. This unstructured data first needs to be transformed into structured information, for which we employ NLP [natural language processing] and computer vision techniques.
“Afterwards, our food science knowledge base, which we built from the ground up, is used to connect these dots. For example, being able to detect and predict a new flavor of ice cream is one thing, but our true value lies in being able to inform food companies across the industry how to take advantage of this seemingly unrelated trend.”
He also stressed that the platform is superior to ‘legacy providers’ which deliver research that is not personalised or ‘novel in nature’. “A common complaint is that legacy providers sell the same insights and data to everyone,” Vasani said. “The insights generated [by Spoonshot] are novel in nature. Another common complaint is that legacy providers charge large premiums to access the ‘real’ insights.”
The creative spark for NPD
Vasani believes that Spoonshot’s forecasts will provide valuable inspiration for disruptive innovation in FMCG. “Our platform is an innovation and trends research tool. It's designed to be the creative spark for product development by encouraging exploration, generating inspiration and is a place for ideation.”
The platform consists of several major components:
- Ingredient Networks – for the discovery of emerging and novel ingredient combinations.
- Start-ups Explorer – which details the innovation and product development of the long-tail of new food and beverage companies.
- Trend Trek - a place to discover the latest food innovation around the world.
Alongside the launch of the platform, Spoonshot has released a trends report that flags the ‘tremendous opportunity’ that fruit and vegetable peels have in the consumer product space.
The report points to the potential to use banana peel as a flour substitute in bread making. It stresses that fruit and vegetable peels are increasingly making their way into recipes and menus. It also predicts apple and potato peels, as well as watermelon rind, could emerge as ‘functional and exciting’ food products.
According to Spoonshot, the appeal of peel can be attributed to two main drivers: consumer concern over health and wellness and food waste.
“One of the main drivers for this emerging trend is the ongoing search for solutions to tackle food waste, bolstered by the need for improved nutrition in our daily diets,” the report stated.
“Fruit and vegetable peels contain significant amounts of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain phytochemicals, which are the active ingredients in plants that aid growth as well as defend the body against pathogens.”
Spoonshot is currently working on its 2021 trend report, designed to coincide with the CPG product development cycle of 18-24 months. What other trends does Vasani expect to generate excitement?
“An insight that our AI has developed, which has been further validated by our team of food science experts is the greater adoption of adaptogens in chewing gums, mints, candies, and beverages, exploring a whole new category for this super herb. Ingredients like ashwagandha (an Ayurvedic herb traditionally used to counter the reactions of stress by reducing the amount of cortisol released in the body), along with florals like jasmine will open to the doors to new functional drinks.”
Spoonshot’s development and validation
Vasani is confident that Spoonshot is a solution that will resonate with product developers in the food industry. And he has grounds for confidence.
Spoonshot’s beta testers have included FMCG companies, restaurants, flavour houses, ingredients businesses, innovation agencies, and retailers. “Our platform has been tested by over 40 companies, which of 15 are industry giants. The combined annual food sales of these companies is over $100bn,” Vasani told this publication.
Feedback has been positive. “Our platform allows businesses to be significantly more productive compared to current workflows related to trends and innovation research. One CPG giant said that they would be able to reduce their new product development cycle by up to six weeks with our platform,” the founder revealed.
The platform will initially launch in North America, with plans to roll out to ‘several new markets’ in 2020 across Europe and Asia.