The application of technology in the food and beverage industry is growing in four areas – Automation, Sustainability, Personalisation and Experience design. At the Food Matters Live 2018 conference in London, I presented some of the work we are doing in these key areas, industry trends we are seeing first hand, and provided insight on the trajectory of technology application in these areas over the next few years.

The future of food

Food Matters Live is an event dedicated to creating cross-sector connections focused on the future of food, drink and sustainable nutrition, which this year took the theme ‘Changing the Future of Food and Drink’. In addition to the exhibition and main conference, there were a series of seminars including my presentation- ‘Horizon scanning: exploring how technology and innovation are revolutionising the future of the food and drink experience’.

The theme of the session can best be summed up as follows. The application of science and technology to food creates a huge opportunity to change the way we experience food and drink. From technology’s role in delivering nutrition to experiential innovation, the session explored the latest technologies shaping the future of the industry. What are tomorrow’s consumers looking for and how ready are they to embrace change?

The four key growth areas that we see in the industry are covered in my presentation.

  1. Transformational Robotics (with AI) – We see particular growth in companies from the service industry wanting to transform their business through robotics. We are helping these companies to realise their ambitions of doing twice as much business with the same staff.
  2. Product innovation for sustainability – There is an overwhelming volume of conferences, advice and guidance on sustainability, clients are clear on what they need to do but less clear on ‘how to take action’. We are working with a growing number of clients who are asking how technology can be used to help them meet their sustainability objectives. By helping them place sustainability front and centre of their product and system development drives sustainability impact for their business and sustainability of their products, services and operations.
  3. Personalisation – Technology provides the opportunity to tailor product and service experience to the end user. Consumers generate more data than ever before, but in order for them to connect their data to a product or service, the offering must be compelling. Within food and beverage the most powerful data is tastes and preferences - often not fully understood by the user themselves, but captured in a way that translates both verbal description and physiological response into actionable quantification of the senses.

“If some of your customers want hot tea, give them hot tea, if they want cold tea, give them cold tea. If you are trying to split the difference by giving everyone warm tea, it’s time to rethink your strategy – because nobody likes warm tea” (Denise Holloman).

  1. Experience – Increasingly our clients want to use technology to create new in-store experiences that are engaging, creative, unique and that work reliably and seamlessly. This is supporting the growth of the shift in bricks and mortar retail and food service into brand-related ‘experience’ to drive customers into their physical stores. We work with brands to take their vision and rapidly converge on technically feasible concepts that delivers an experience that excites and engage customers where often the technology is invisible and certainly friction-free for outlets to manage and for their customers.

The full presentation can be found on slideshare.

Iain Smith

Iain has 9 years of experience in the field of user centred design & research, systematic innovation process, mechanical engineering design and user requirements capture/elicitation.