When you think about food, technology is hardly the first thing that comes to mind. Nevertheless, the world population is growing, demand is rising, and technology in the food industry is evolving rapidly.
According to a recent ING report, tech innovations allow for the production of more food and in a shorter period of time, while also making products more affordable and with a higher quality. In other words, the future has already started changing the food and beverage industry.
How can your company join? We are going to cover the emerging technologies in the food industry and how you will benefit from them. By starting with at least one of these points, you will begin to notice the difference.
The world around us is changing, and so does our attitude to what we eat. Evolving digital opportunities along with an eco-responsible approach are inducing changes in food production. These are the three main factors that are causing the food industry revolution.
1. Demand for safe and healthy food
Food production is growing fast, but it does not always mean that it is safe for customers. High quality is the key factor that should be considered by manufacturers, and that is why more and more regulations have appeared in the F&B sector.
Take the recent EU food regulations coupled with the growing demand for healthy and “clean” products and thus, new challenges have surfaced for food and beverage manufacturers. How can you achieve the highest level of quality and not damage the brand’s image? The latest tech trends seem to provide the best solutions.
A recent ING report proves that consumers expect to see healthier food on the store shelves in the future. 43% of respondents are looking for healthy options, while 18% are interested in eco-friendly products:
2. Climate change
The planet’s wellbeing is now disturbing the minds of thousands of people, and all of them need food for everyday living. We see how numerous consumers are choosing a plant-based diet and expect more sustainability from manufacturers. Creating transparency and proving sustainability in the production process is viable only with a digital transformation in the food industry.
3. Reducing of plastics waste
Using plastic-free straws, cups, and plates is a growing worldwide trend. Some countries moved even further and banned plastic cutlery altogether. What is next?
Food and beverage companies should adapt their packaging to this trend and come up with alternative solutions for packaging systems. When the old methods do not work, the digital world swoops in to help.
4. Fierce competition
The F&B industry includes huge numbers of manufacturers and retailers, and each of them is fighting for a place in the sun.
Moreover, the most popular F&B companies create their own markets with innovative products that meet the latest demands of their target audience. Appearing on the store shelf looks like a savage race for every participant. But at the same time, creating an innovative product means more time, costs, and employees – the solution to all that is in the digital tools.
Investing in modern software and digital tools requires some consideration from business owners. But with time, more and more companies opt for the digital transformation. Why would they do that? Here is a list of benefits that answer this question.
1. A more accurate supply and demand forecast
Inventory is a big part of food processing operations requiring a sizable investment in both buying and storing necessary products. When companies know the demand beforehand, it keeps the cash flow in order and reduces risks.
Software with advanced analytics affords us the ability to better understand customer needs and predict more accurately the seasonal levels of demand.
2. Reduced risks of the equipment breakage
Using smart sensors is a revelation for many industries, including the food and beverage. Such devices are used to identify any equipment anomalies at an early stage, which allows companies to extend the life cycle of some machines and avoid downtimes.
Also, some supply chains deal with products and ingredients that should always be fresh. In this case, controlling the temperature and humidity is vital for the production process, and smart sensors are the best at identifying any deviations.
3. Improved customer experience
The faster the time flies, the more choices your customers get: the market is overloaded with products and services. That is why many brands are working hard to transform products into something bigger – products become services, and services are turned into experiences.
Food industry technology innovations allow business owners to understand customers better and provide them with a little bit more than they expect. For example, the latest quality management and traceability software prevents any low-quality products from appearing in the consumer’s hands. It both increases your income and improves your market reputation.
Already a quarter of Dutch consumers want to know more about the origins of the meat they buy, fruit and vegetables are next on the list:
4. Recipe flexibility in changing conditions
While consumer demands are changing, food manufacturers should always be ready to adapt. They have to change the products’ packaging, recipes, and deliver new products faster to the market.
Digital recipe management tools make brands flexible in this regard, allowing them to save more by spending less on possible changes: operations with several streams and products are now managed more efficiently.
5. Safer production environment
The food industry’s digital transformation concerns not only customers but also workers who produce products for them. Workers complete their tasks more effectively in a safe environment, and digital tools provide all of that.
AR software along with training simulators help notice and calculate the machinery’s working parameters and provide necessary real-time data right in front of the engineer.
And here is the most interesting part – what are the exact innovations that are now transforming the F&B industry? We have gathered the most interesting examples.
Various tech devices are aimed at making food production faster and safer. Only advanced machines can keep products and their ingredients in perfect conditions. But this is not the only example.
Robots can also assist people in coping with their everyday tasks. Back in 2016, the largest meat processing company in the world, JBS, first tried out “robot butchers” that could cut the most difficult sections of the meat. Butchers cutting these more challenging pieces of meat certainly makes their job more dangerous, but robots have created a safer environment and reduced the risk of injuries.
The agriculture industry is setting up lots of challenges for business owners – the sphere is strongly dependent on weather conditions and the quality of soil and crops. Without the use of technology, workers have to physically check every patch to make sure the outcome will be positive.
To provide a product of the highest quality, some companies have started using drones. How does it help? Drones get a general overview of the field from above and then test both the soil and crops. These small helpers deliver information to the farmworkers and help them identify which crops are damaged. As a result, it saves lots of time, helps grow only high-quality crops, and improves workers’ productivity.
Eco-friendly waste and packaging
As consumers now are strongly focused on sustainability and healthy meals, brands have no other choice except to follow up with this trend.
What alternatives do we have? With the latest tech developments, there are actual edible packaging with zero waste and micro packaging which involves using nanoparticles that even kill bacteria.
Technologies can also help fight against product waste. The Copia app connects shops and restaurants that have a surplus in available food with numerous nonprofit organizations that are happy to accept it.
Smart sensors transform the physical world of the production process into digital data and provide managers with priceless insights. Sensors can count inventory and food ingredients making the manager’s work more efficient.
Also, these smart devices get real-time data about the production’s assets and distinguish critical items that can potentially cause downtimes.
Sensors control the steps of every product and check food and beverage conditions while the products are on the way to the buyer. The biggest problem in this case is maintaining stable temperatures. Smart sensors can be deployed in vehicles, refrigerators, displays, etc. to avoid deviations. If any issue occurs, workers get information via a mobile or desktop app.
In the modern age, transparency rules. We want to know more about the world around us and share our personal and professional lives with others. It is the same when it comes to food: we are trying to find a detailed list of ingredients and make sure the production process is safe enough for the environment.
For instance, Provenance went the innovative way and used blockchain to provide information about the product’s origins. Potential buyers only scan the ID mark on the product with their smartphones and can see the chain of custody from the very beginning.
How many products should you produce in a day, week, or month? Without these numbers, a production process is nothing more than a blind walk in the dark. AI-powered solutions provide an accurate forecast for companies of any size, using big data and updating it real-time.
But food production is not the only branch requiring an accurate forecast – let’s not forget about cafes and restaurants. The two crucial factors for any restaurant are the level of staffing and a well-stocked kitchen. Choosing wisely is not your everyday task anymore – AI-powered technologies do all the dirty work.
Complex restaurant management platforms can forecast staff demands, track every product and then order it according to the sales trends. There is no need to guess when you have real-time data in your hands.
Read also: Driving Digital Transformation through AI
Another food industry digital innovation is self-checkout kiosks – Aramark installed them at Major League Baseball stadiums. The main advantage of this novelty is that customers can check out several products at once without scanning barcodes – the computer vision works instead. It is a time-saver at crowded places and allows for the fastest check-out process.
The green movement, climate change, the growth of competition – all these factors make F&B companies look for new ways to improve their products and services. Old-school methods will not work because they cannot provide the highest levels of transparency, quality of product shipment, and storage. Instead, marketers choose the latest tech innovations.
Now brands use technologies such as robots, drones, sensors, and artificial intelligence – the impact that they have on the food and beverage industry should not be underestimated. It is not only about food ingredients – it is about plastic-free packaging, sustainability, improved storage conditions, and demand forecast.
Be it an IoT or AI-powered solution, Eastern Peak makes any transformation possible. Contact our development team and share your bravest ideas.