"It's not just what you have on the nutrition label; there’s a lot of derived attributes now that people are able to get. Based on the combination of nutrition, you can tell is [this product] ketogenic or is it good for someone with heart issues or diabetes,” Raman said. “Being able to use [that data] in these AI models can definitely come up with much smarter recommendations."
Healthier food and beverage recommendations at a consumer’s fingertips
Birdzi takes “first-party data from retailers and then converts that to insights, segments, [and] behavioral trends,” and provides a marketing technology platform that allows retailers to send personalized emails and promotions, leveraging AI capabilities in the process, Raman said.
And with technologies like Birdzi’s and others, retailers can create digital-shopping experiences that better serve the nutritional needs of consumers and incentivize buying healthier products through loyalty programs, Raman explained. Apps like Albertsons’ Sincerely Health provide a tool to track and gamify health goals by offering coupons and other rewards upon meeting a goal or by incentivizing certain healthier products.
“The part that the retailer plays here is ... how do they disseminate this information in a more effective manner because I think there's a real opportunity here to win a consumer by clearly establishing your objective of if you shop at this store, we're going to get you healthier. We're going to recommend healthier stuff, ... [and] that's the opportunity for the retailer. But I think it has to start with consumer education, giving them the tools to be able to make that decision.”
Consumers can also adjust their dietary preferences when new health conditions arise with these health and wellness platforms, Raman said. Currently, product recommendations are done through what consumers have searched or purchased in the past, and with AI, this allows for recommendations that more accurately reflect a consumer’s diet, he added.
“If I've been buying Oreo cookies all my life and I go to the doctor, and he says, ‘You got to stop eating sugar,’ and the supermarket is still going to think I like Oreo cookies and keep sending me offers for Oreo cookies, whereas I may have gone and changed my preferences and say I'm looking for low glycemic index products. So, I think the ability to understand intent and use technology and AI and machine learning to surface relevant content is critical.”
[Editor's note: Interested in learning more about AI’s impact on the food and beverage industry? Join FoodNavigator-USA at our Futureproofing the Food System virtual summit this November where we talk about how AI and digital transformations are shaping the food system. We will also explore other food tech, the food as medicine movement and the circular economy. Check out the agenda and register HERE.]
Making sure better-for-you is actually better-for-you
As retailers roll out these apps, it’s also important that they are backed up by reliable health standards, Raman said. Additionally, retailers and CPG brands need to better educate consumers on how to eat healthier at a time when consumers have distrust of large brands, he added.
“There's a lot of these programs now that either use USDA standards or FDA standards to determine something's good for you [or] not good for you. And I think that's part of the education ... is to let consumers know that this meets FDA standards of nutritional quality and processing quality, and I think there's a whole movement around SmartLabels, [so consumers can] actually understand transparency in product manufacturing.”
And just as retailers are making a bigger push for healthier and better-for-you products, large CPG brands like PepsiCo are waking up to the reality that they need to provide healthier products, Raman said.
“I see that [big CPG brands are] recognizing that they have a role to play here in terms of messaging, advertising, and coming up with more healthier standards. Because otherwise, I think they're going to get upstaged by the startup brands that are focusing on more truth in advertising it.”