The drive to shorten the innovation pipeline has been a feature of the food industry for some time, as large corporations struggle to respond to a proliferation of speedboat-like start-ups and ‘fast-changing consumers’.
Manmit Shrimali founded Turing AI in response to what he saw as the biggest ‘bottleneck’ facing the food industry: ‘how products are developed’.
“The food industry is trapped in a 120-year-old trial and error approach… a stage-gate process. Turing addresses the entire workflow for product innovation and renovation.”
The company has developed a tool to streamline innovation, from ‘concept to commercialisation’, by developing an integrated, holistic process that looks at everything from prototyping to consumer acceptance.
Building ‘institutional knowledge’
“The problem isn’t that companies lack data. Often there is too much of it across different systems and in often incompatible formats… We found a way to use an engine to create institutional knowledge,” the food tech innovator told us.
Turing AI is able to help companies avoid the ‘data trap’ and can build this platform of institutional knowledge within a matter of weeks, Shrimali revealed.
Turing AI was designed to ‘learn from’ different systems and data formats and can automatically ingest this information, because it was ‘trained’ on the information itself. Data points gathered range from PLM, cost data and legacy data to third party data from suppliers or knowledge that is available in the public domain.
The outcome is an integrated system that identifies ‘what companies currently know’, as well as any knowledge gaps ‘they never knew they had’. This allows companies to ‘focus on innovating’ rather than managing data, Shrimali believes.
The platform can work across divisions and functions, from initial product formulation through to processing and packaging. It can take externalities into account, such as the carbon footprint or cost implications of ingredient choice. And, importantly, it allows corporations to synthesise their ‘integral data’ with their ‘invaluable human expertise’.
“AI is actually a small component of the platform… NPD is a creative process,” Shrimali observed, describing the system as delivering ‘augmented creativity’.
Reducing trial and error
Turing aims to reduce the number of product prototype iterations and testing needed through the creation of a ‘single-stage, fluid process’, Shrimali explained. The system allows the (often costly and time consuming) trial and error to be removed from innovation, replacing physical tests with a virtual system where the impact of different ingredient formulations can be simulated.
“Then the smart engine kicks in and guides [product developers] on where and how they should collect data based on desired product goals, [including] performance, shelf-life, cost or superiority.”
The AI not only learns from the past, but also from all ongoing digital or physical interactions, guiding next steps ‘like a real-time chess system’.
Shrimali believes that the platform offers particularly exciting opportunities in new and emerging categories, such as plant-based cheese, where there is ‘some knowledge, but a lot of unknowns’.
“The platform can be used for goal-focused innovation or as part of an exploratory journey,” he claimed.
Faster and more effective innovation
Turing’s AI is delivering results for the large multinational organisations the start-up is already working alongside.
One corporation – which cannot be named – was able to cut its innovation process from eight months to three-to-four weeks when developing a product with a longer shelf life. “We can help develop a product in an eighth of the time, minimum,” Shrimali confirmed.
Another large, branded manufacturer was able to deliver efficiencies by simulating swapping out ingredients for cheaper alternatives.
Shrimali is able to discuss the work Turing is doing with one big ‘leading-edge innovator’: Tesco.
The UK retailer generates £18bn in own-label sales with 15,000 products sold under its retailer brands. The process of innovation and renovation is a continuous cycle and, according to data shared by the retailer, the use of Turin AI means it can deliver ten times faster end-to-end innovation.
“Each day Tesco is working to maintain their position of developing great products for their customers in the digital age and is exploring exciting ways of continually developing such promising products.”