AI tech offers food brands a finger on the pulse of trends

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty/ipopba
Getty/ipopba

Related tags: AI, Trends

An Israeli start-up has launched its AI-powered food intelligence platform in the UK. The company – called Tastewise – says it can offer real-time industry insights on how consumers order, cook, and eat, to help brands with product innovation.

Founded by former Google executive, Alon Chen, the Tastewise technology works by scouring over 2.8 billion social interactions, 1.2 million online recipes, localized data of 183,000 restaurants and delivery menus to offer immediate, location-specific food and beverage insights. It says this information allows companies to understand the deep motivations behind consumer behaviour and trends.

British baked bean breakfast is reinvented during COVID
Covid is reinventing the British baked bean breakfast

Customers include Nestlé, PepsiCo, Givaudan, Campbell’s, General Mills and Dole.

“The pandemic has made it clear that it’s imperative to have your finger on today’s pulse each time a decision is made,”​ said Tastewise’s co-founder and CEO Chen. “While it may not be surprising that health is top of mind right now in the UK, we're able to see that this change in consumer mentality has far-reaching effects.”

Tastewise’s data reveals that health-conscious Brits are attempting to reimagine the classic English breakfast by swapping baked beans for broad beans. That’s based on interest in nutrition-packed green beans being up 112% in the morning.

“Our data-driven innovation gives brands an inside look into the latest consumer trends, allowing them to access the equivalent of thousands of virtual focus groups at the click of a button,”​ added Chen.  

Tastewise has released a new report exploring consumer food trends in the UK.

Report highlights include:

  • Wales reigns as the vegan capital of the UK, with 8% of references to eating in the land of the daffodil centring on vegan food and beverage.
  • The British baked bean breakfast is reinvented during COVID-19 as consumers seek to boost health with green beans, up 112% in popularity for breakfast during the pandemic.
  • Popularity in CBD fades as L-theanine skyrockets, growing 300% as consumers seek out stress-relieving coffee and tea blends during these particularly challenging times.
  • Health and fitness motivations draw consumers to sustainable eating more than climate change; sustainable foods are rising 52% in popularity YoY, with the movement prioritizing personal health over planetary health. 
  • Meal kits add flavour to the dreariness of quarantine, replicating experiences from life before the pandemic - interest in kits is up over 200%+ each in England, Wales, and Scotland.  
  • Consumers turn to edible flowers to star in their dishes and on their social media as they crave organic, aesthetic food.
  • Korean Gochujang is the new sriracha, bringing the heat and the sweet as the sauce is growing 5x faster in popularity across the UK than its Thai rival.

Accelerating interest in oatmeal-based pizza among consumers is another new trend to emerge from the data, said Chen. "We're looking at web data and trends and we're basically able to say that these are the most commonly used recipes in a specific category, or the most visited recipes in the past month.

“So you can see, in say the pizza category, people were starting to adopt cauliflower pizza but the newest adaption is for oat-meal based pizza.” 

Addressing the plant-based category’s health halo

He added that the Tastewise technology made it apparent that rising interest in plant-based food options among shoppers was motivated by the perceived health benefits of meat- and dairy-free foods. This insight makes it paramount that plant-based options are truly healthy, stressed Chen.

“What we've been seeing all over the world is that the main reason for people to choose plant-based foods is not because of animal rights but because of health. 

"That's important because if we're thinking about the next plant-based meat alternative or plant-based burger we have to realise that if we want to create a product that will become a repeat purchase among consumers you really have to address the health issues and make sure that what you put in there is actually clean label and not so processed and not too many ingredients and preservatives, and still be tasty.” 

Vegan eating gains steam across the UK
Vegan eating is rising - but plant-based products need to get healthier

Foods perceived as boosting immunity

Another rising trend is consumers seeking out foods with functional benefits. 

"Across the globe, pre-pandemic, one out of three conversations were about wellbeing or functional motivation to consume food,”​ revealed Chen. “Today it one out of two. In the UK, people are also looking to foods as medicine: for stress release, immunity and weight loss."

Rising interest in L-theanine – one of the main active ingredients found in green tea, alongside caffeine and green tea catechins, which is promoted as a relaxant without drowsiness and usually put in coffees -- was a “massive business opportunity​”, he added, which could gain ground in food innovation thanks to its neutral taste.

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