Eye on AI - October 4th, 2019
Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!
This week, our continued discussion on AI and food adds a new twist, as one AI-powered food recommendation startup announced the release of its taste prediction and recommendation platform, while one of its competitors announced a significant round of funding.
Now Trending: AI-Powered Flavor Recommendation Platforms
First, an article out of The Spoon, my go-to Food Tech resource, titled “Spoonshot Launches its AI-Powered Crystal Ball for CPG Companies, Makes an Ashwagandha Prediction”, in which Editor Christ Albricht details how a new AI-powered flavor recommendation platform company called Spoonshot is making waves in the consumer product goods (CPG) space.
“…[Spoonshot’s] platform analyzes billions of diverse data points from over 900 sources in the domain of food,” announced Spoonshot’s press release last week. “The technology focuses explicitly on long-tail data as stronger signal indicators of future trends are detected in this data. The types of data processed include scientific research, food communities, niche ecommerce portals, media platforms, and data on more than 7.8M CPG products, menus, and recipes.”
This new AI-flavor prediction technology combines data science, machine learning and food science to predict flavor trends and recommend new CPG products. Users are able to search through three broad categories: Ingredient Networks, for recommended flavor combinations and pairings based on current trends; Startups Explorer, to browse existing products, menus and recipes in the database to see what flavor combination are already in use; and Trend Trek (still in development), which will eventually allow users to pick out different locations on a map to see what products and flavor combinations are popular elsewhere. During its closed beta, Spoonshot was already working with forty companies, fifteen of which are billion-dollar plus businesses, and recommended a new drinking product based on growing flavor and health trends.
“Using AI to power food recommendations is actually becoming a pretty crowded category,” adds Albrecht. “Other players in the space include Analytical Flavor Systems and Tastewise (which also predicted functional foods as an emerging area for CPG companies to focus on).”
$5M Round of Funding for Spoonshot Competitor Tastewise
Adding to the news in the AI-powered flavor recommendation world, Spoonshot competitor Tastewise announced this week that it has raised $5M in Series A funding from food tech investment firm PeakBridge, bringing its total up to $6.5M. While this space is becoming crowded, Tastewise may have found its niche.
“There is some competition for Tastewise in this sector, from players like Analytical Flavor Systems and Spoonshot, who use AI to help CPGs predict food trends and consumer behaviors,” writes The Spoon reporter Jennifer Marston. “However, the Tastewise platform differentiates itself somewhat by focusing more on analysis of behavior than flavor, acting almost as a fast-tracked version of market research that relies on real-time data rather than focus groups and surveys.”
To play off of this critical differentiator, Tastewise also released a report this week examining “a category of ingredients, meals and preparations that serve a particular purpose beyond mere sustenance” in the global functional foods market, including those that promote specific health benefits. Alon Chen, Tastewise CEO, says they’ll use the additional funding to better train their AI to understand consumer motivations behind food and ingredient choices.
The recent spate of food recommendation engines appearing in the food tech space reminds me of the applications of graph theory to flavor combinations Michael Nestrud and I collaborated on in the early 2010s while he was still a grad student at Cornell (see for example here and here). I’m happy to see the value of these ideas being recognized, as investors seem more eager and motivated now than ever to fund this type of technology. All signs suggest that the AI-powered food prediction trend will only grow from here.
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