At Tastewise’s Generative AI summit in London last month, representatives from major companies such as Mars, PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz and Givaudan spoke about how generative AI had helped them streamline the process of NPD, increasing the chance of releasing products before the trends they sparked die out.
Finger on the pulse
When designing new products, it can take a long time to develop. Tom Hadwen, Head of Sales Food Service International at Kraft Heinz, contrasted the process of developing a new product manually with that of using generative AI.
“We'd involve our R&D teams, our operations team, and the operations team would go away and beaver away in the background, and hey presto, two years later we'd got the product. And then we go to Waitrose, we put it on the shelf, and we'd be too late, the trend would be gone, or somebody else would own the trend. We would be too late.”
Conversely, with generative AI tools, such as Tastewise’s TasteGPT, product development can be streamlined, with a lot of the heavy lifting done by AI. “What we’ve found was that we are capable of doing things that we couldn't do three years ago, we couldn't do five years ago, because technology has moved on.
“We can understand now what's happening market by market. And that's something that we started to do. We started to understand the trends, we started to understand the trends much earlier so we can own what's happening in the market.”
Generative AI also allows companies to be in line with trends as they develop, giving them, for example, insights into food menus around the world. Without AI, Hadwen stressed, these insights would be a deeply time-consuming process.
“How would we understand what’s on menus in small independent restaurants in Brazil? How would we understand what the trends are in Australia in the delivery market? Two real-life examples that we're looking at. We wouldn't know, unless we sat there and went through Google and went through individual restaurant menus. So we have to make sure that we embrace the technology, we keep focusing on change, and we bring change to how we operate.”
Human and machine
AI is a boon for consumer insights and foresights, according to many of the speakers at the event. TasteGPT, for example, can create surveys by scouring the internet for consumer data, providing companies with insights into whether NPD will be successful.
Consumer insights has been transformed, said Sioned Winfield, Marketing, Insights and Transformation Director at PepsiCo, by generative AI’s ability to carry out mass surveys by observation rather than asking.
“If you reflect on the insights environment,” she said, “there's been a lot of disruption in the last five years, where we used to do surveys and go to 100 people and ask questions. We don't need to do that anymore, because we have platforms like Tastewise and more social listening. This concept of observing rather than asking is so exciting for the insights organisation.
“The other thing I think will be a real lifesaver, and where I think gen AI can help, is also on connecting different data sources, so a lot of the way that insights are generated today is very fragmented. But a gen AI can help us to make better connections, so we then as humans can move to more storytelling and engaging and driving that impact.”
Tatiana Luschen, Consumer Sensory Insights Manager Innovation & Customer Foresight Europe at flavours multinational Givaudan views AI as a powerful tech opportunity to streamline data from internal and external sources, which would greatly enhance Marketing & Insights work and decision-making process.
“We work with snacks, with yoghurt, with beverages, with savoury, we manage to get such an amazing wealth of information and data and insights. We do use AI in some points, but I think the main challenge of this do for us is how we can make use of technology of AI to consolidate all of this. Because I know that it's all coming from different sides and from different companies, but we need all of this type of information, we also need consumer information. So how you can make the technology work for you and really facilitate the decision making process, getting the right conclusion out of it?”
Katie Kaylor, Global CMI Foresight at Mars, agreed. “My nervousness is that we forget about that human side, that we need people to be able to mind those tools. Ideally there'd be someone who everyday spent an hour minimum going into all these platforms. We just need to make sure we also have people who want to get their hands dirty. You need to be asking the right questions, and actually carve up that time to really go mine these fantastic sources we've got.”
Changed on 3/11/2023 to better reflect Tatiana Luschen's views on AI.