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Artificial intelligence is revolutionising the food and beverage industry by translating abstract flavour concepts into tangible realities. Recent advancements in Japan showcase how brands leverage AI to infuse ideas and emotions into product development, creating unique culinary experiences. This innovation not only enhances consumer engagement but also underscores AI’s role in driving sustainable food production and aligning with consumer preferences. However, building trust in AI-assisted choices remains imperative for ongoing industry transformation, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Earlier this year, Japanese tech giant NEC Corporation, in partnership with Kimuraya Sohonten Co. and Abema TV, pioneered an innovative approach to food creation, leveraging AI technology to craft bread flavours aimed at captivating new demographics, particularly younger consumers.

By analysing cultural cues from TV and social media, they have created innovative offerings like “First Date” and “Mutual Love,” infusing emotions into culinary experiences. This pioneering endeavor showcases AI’s potential to revolutionise food innovation by bridging the gap between sensory and emotional realms.

Katrina Diamonon, Principal Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “More brands are taking greater liberties with the concept of flavour, by using intangible elements such as ideas, experiences, and moods to describe flavour. This recent example from Japan takes the consumption experience beyond the sensorial and into the emotional realm. We have already seen this kind of innovation from more progressive beverage companies, but its expansion into bakery suggests that a wider array of food and drink brands will explore more whimsical and abstract flavours.

“It also underscores the wider impact of AI technology on consumer goods innovation. Not only is it making food production smarter and more sustainable; it is also changing how food products are conceived and designed, aligning them even more closely with consumer preferences. Significantly, we are already seeing a degree of confidence in AI-assisted food and drink choices; however, consumer trust in such technologies needs to continue to grow.”

A survey* conducted by GlobalData found that one third (33 %) of global consumers would be very or quite likely to trust recommendations from a virtual assistant (e.g. using AI) to buy food and drinks.

Diamonon concludes: “The notion of translating human emotions into tangible flavours may seem far-fetched but is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility for AI, which has only scratched the surface in terms of its ability to use predictive analytics to transform ideas into reality.

“As more brands make the move into the metaverse, flavour has the potential to become a more abstract term as physical and digital worlds merge. AI will prove invaluable in helping brands develop flavours and scents that bring an emotion to life.”

*GlobalData 2023 Q4 Consumer Survey – Global, published in December 2023, sample size – 21,000