All Things Artificial Intelligence
Everywhere you look someone’s posting, talking or speculating about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning on R&D, product development and business operations. IFT19 was no different, except for a community that’s historically been relatively slow to adapt to technology innovations, food scientists from academia to Fortune 100 companies were touting their learnings and use-cases for AI. A message that resonated across all IFT presentations was that the future of innovation is deeply rooted in AI and machine learning. Specifically, AI and closely associated techniques are being deployed to discover unmet consumer needs, define problems and brainstorm solutions, define value propositions and business models, get customer feedback, and create novel products. However, there’s a catch. Most companies don’t fully appreciate the key enablers of AI. Those enablers include the necessary infrastructure, variety and velocity of data, and above all else the right people and culture to support AI. We couldn’t agree more. Our advisory group has identified this need and is helping companies work through these enablers.
Hemp, CBD, Cannabis
CBD, CBD, CBD! The cannabis and CBD space is hot and shows no signs of cooling. Approximately 80% of my conversations at IFT19 were around the science and truth of CBD claims. I enjoyed the interest that start-ups, leading ingredient companies, and large brand owners have in understanding the science and innovation space around cannabis, especially given my background in the pharmacology of cannabinoids. Now back to the sessions. There were several dedicated to consumer perception, product trends and development of standardized testing methodologies. That’s good news because as standard testing practices become available, companies can expect harmonization across state and country lines. And with that harmonization, the true cannabis opportunity will show itself. The number of cannabis sessions at IFT19 signifies IFT’s commitment to global food safety, and their acknowledgment of this rapidly growing food scientific discipline.
Among this year’s highlights were a full day of sessions dedicated to exploring one of the most fascinating areas of current research: the gut microbiome and its relationship to nutrition and health. Dr. Darrell Cockburn of Penn State provided a packed room with a science-based review of the gut microbiome and scientists’ growing understanding of its link to well-being and health. Although the term “Personalization Nutrition” was not explicitly discussed, all roads from IFT19 lead to food and ingredient companies seeking to better understand how they can develop and deliver novel products that enable personalized nutrition. IFT19 highlighted the importance of diet choices including fermentable fibers and pre and probiotics. For ingredient and food manufacturers the takeaway is to understand the mechanism of action of your ingredients and products on the gut microbiome, as this will enable structure-function claims and product differentiation in a crowded marketplace. Innovation is demonstrating viability of delivery, activity, and colonization of probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract.
These key themes – artificial intelligence, CBD and cannabis, upcycling the food waste stream and deeper understanding the gut microbiome – will influence food innovation in the next few years. We’ll provide our take on each of these key themes in more detail over the next few months.
In the meantime, contact us if you have questions about these topics or any others as you continue to innovate in food.