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Food Intelligence: Under the Hood

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The latest news, views and insights in food trends

Food Intelligence: Under the Hood
Research

Food Intelligence: Under the Hood

April 6th, 2021
8 min.
Miriam Aniel

Miriam Aniel

Content & Research, Tastewise

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The Tastewise solutions are able to do what they do because of all the amazing technology under the hood. Join us for a blog series exploring the technology behind our real-time insights, and what it can do for your business.


In today's blog post, we’re getting a bit personal.

In fact, we’re going to be spending the next month getting personal. If you’re joining us over here on the blog, we’ll take that to mean you love food. You probably work with food as part of your job. You’re a new product innovator? Check. Part of an all-star F&B sales team? You betcha. You might even really, really love technology - welcome, fellow nerd.

We talk all day about food and technology, and the ways that we bring AI to the table to make a real impact in an industry that’s changing by the minute. You might be familiar with our webinar series where we offer actionable tips on salient food (and business) trends across the industry. You may be an avid reader of our free reports, which we release monthly based on real-time data. All of that is our content “bread and butter”, and we’re proud of how our customers and wider network are using Tastewise insights to make better business choices.

Here’s the thing: the Tastewise solutions are able to do what they do because of all the amazing technology under the hood. And we haven’t yet lifted up the hood to show those interested in Tastewise a personal peek at the machine working away behind all of our content, beyond the “techie language” we sometimes throw around.

And food is personal, right?

It’s how we sustain ourselves, connect to each other and to our cultures, and make our livings. It’s something that says a lot about who we are, what we value, and the choices we make.

Why does a personal tour of our tech actually matter?

I’m Miriam, and I’m in charge of content here at Tastewise. That means that as part of my job, I get to work with our team of amazing data scientists to create data-driven reports, webinars, presentations (and so much more) centering on food and beverage trends. Everyday, I get to jump head first into what people are eating, drinking, ordering, and cooking -- an awesome fit for someone like me who loves (no really, loves) everything about food. I’m married to a chef. It runs in the family.

In this four-part series, I’ll be sharing the aspects of our technology that my team and I rely on the most to create insightful, relevant reports for a changing food and beverage industry. I’ll be walking you through the methodologies I use to best understand the ins and outs of today’s food and beverage trends, and what food brands should know about them. By getting to know our technology more intimately, you'll be able to make better decisions about how to use real-time data for your pipeline.

What exactly do we do at Tastewise?

Tastewise is a food intelligence solution that holistically measures and predicts the way people order, cook, and eat. We provide ingredient companies, flavor houses and CPG companies with the precise data and consumer insights they need to develop, market and sell products across the food and beverage landscape.

With Tastewise Insights, food and beverage brands are equipped to create data-driven product development and marketing innovation. Our AI technology analyzes billions of food data points - from social media, menus, recipes and more - to provide real-time insights into consumer motivations. Tastewise Growth, our newest solution, consolidates and leverages the goldmine of digitized restaurant data to give foodservice and their partners a leg up in creating fruitful partnerships.

Simply put, Tastewise AI gives you the data and insights you need, with the necessary precision to develop, market and sell products across the food and beverage landscape. This clarity and access allows you to quickly grow all parts of your business; this is “growth hacking” for food and beverage at its best, driven by AI.

Today, understanding what is actually on consumers’ plates faces new challenges; the pandemic has reshaped both consumer behavior, and the ways CPGs, manufacturers, and food brands understand that behavior. The hallmarks of the industry pre-COVID -- surveys, focus groups, door-to-door relationship building and sales strategies -- no longer fit the bill.

That’s where Food Intelligence comes in.

What is Food Intelligence?

Today, there are billions of data points spanning the online world of food and beverage. Between the pandemic and the meteoric rise of new technologies, people have more options than ever before of why, how, when and where to eat and drink. We’ve grown accustomed to having meals suited to our personal needs available at, quite literally, the touch of a button. “I watched a Reel on Instagram that referenced a cool TikTok that showed this guy making plant jerky with the air fryer at his virtual kitchen” is a sentence that would not have made any sense five years ago. In 2021, we barely bat an eye. Food Intelligence leverages today’s technology to better understand what had to happen offline for someone to take a bite of their next meal - or choose airfried plant jerky over anything else. It makes it possible to take an unbelievable amount of food and beverage data, and turn it into actionable knowledge that helps companies develop and sell new products and services.

Simply put, Food Intelligence is visibility. There are so many factors at play in the industry at any given moment; Food Intelligence makes the interconnected web of eating and drinking more transparent, and lends key players visibility into how it works.

At Tastewise, we drive Food Intelligence with AI, connecting this vast web of data sources into a comprehensive, comprehensible vision of today’s food and beverage landscape.

Okay, okay, all of this is “first date” material. By now, we’ve sat down, had our coffee, and nibbled at our croissants. You’ve gotten to know us better, and hopefully you like what you see. Time to take things up a notch: Let’s dive into the tech behind the insights, and what it means for our trend analysis methodologies.

Introducing this week’s star: Natural Language Processing!

For transparency’s sake: I didn’t come to Tastewise with a background in technology, so getting my head around how our cutting-edge tech works has been a process. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate this link to the Wikipedia page on NLP; I’m sneaking it in to give you more information about the concept generally to pair with our crash course here on the blog (I promise I won’t tell if you click it). In simple language, Natural Language Processing (NLP) bridges the gap between how people talk, and how computers understand language. Using NLP, our Tastewise Insights platform can build a deep understanding of trends across data collected from social media, menu, and recipe sources.

For example: if a popular recipe details how to cook the best ‘hamburger’ at home, and someone posts about creating a delicious ‘patty’ on their grill, NLP makes it possible to connect those two concepts together. With algorithms trained in NLP, our AI is able to create an interwoven web of the words, phrases, and - this is the really cool part - context that people engage with when talking about food. This allows our system to analyze both the sentiment and the text within the data sources we rely on.

Things get more complicated if we take a look at sentiment analysis. In addition to image analysis (which we will cover more in later posts), our AI is able to look at text and determine the overall sentiment, feeling, and intention of the author - whether it’s a recipe writer, a restauranteur’s menu, or a post by someone on social media. This ability allows us to look meaningfully at the “why” behind consumer food and beverage choices. A simplistic example: if someone is posting about a delicious picnic they had, and writes, “it was such a sweet surprise to receive this delicious grazing box from a local business for my birthday”, NLP is able to distinguish that “sweet”, a common food and beverage descriptor, is in this context referring to the moment - and not to the picnic items themselves. Our algorithms are trained to take on much more complicated situations and produce reliable, real-time analysis of moments of consumption across data sources.

Why does NLP matter?

Unlike generic social listening tools, solutions equipped with NLP are able to paint a much more specific picture of how people interact with food and beverage, and why. Understanding the context in which something is consumed, by whom, and all of the baggage that comes with that context — was the dish eaten with others? Cooked at home? Ordered in? Part of date night? Prepared a certain way for gut health? etc. — is only made possible if the algorithms know what to look out for.

This is crucial for a number of applications. First things first, social media, recipes, and menus tend to give an honest and authentic representation of how and what people are consuming. Unlike the insights gleaned from surveys, which are often biased and motivated by external factors, insights produced in a digital world are more trustworthy; there isn’t much of a benefit for someone to post that they love tomato soup, if they really don’t, or to write a gluten-free recipe that isn’t actually...gluten-free . (Important note - we use NLP to distinguish between paid posts, restaurant posts, and organic consumer posts).

With a wealth of organic, digital information about moments of food and beverage consumption, NLP works behind the scenes to give product innovators, marketing campaign designers, sales reps, and other stakeholders a holistic sense of what actually matters to the people they serve. Product development teams can use this reliable data to make decisions about what products to prioritize in their pipeline; flavor companies can determine which flavor performs best with their client’s brief; sales teams can identify which products a restaurant might want to serve their specific clientele, given that audience’s expressed preferences. Essentially, NLP opens the door to consistent, holistic, robust analysis of the food and beverage space. And that’s something we all can use right now.

Interested in seeing what NLP can deliver for your use case?

Register for free and get access to a Spotlight Report in seconds on whatever is most interesting to you.

Stay tuned for next week, when we take a look at our next mysterious super-tech component: audience segmentation!

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