top of page

The latest news, trends, analysis, interviews and podcasts from the global food and beverage industry

FoodBev Media Logo
Access more as a FoodBev subscriber

Sign up to FoodBev and unlock more insights from the international food and beverage industry. Subscribers have access to webinars, newsletters, publications and more...

Opinion: How can data be used to predict culinary trends?
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

4 September 2023

Opinion: How can data be used to predict culinary trends?

In this opinion piece, Nisha Purswani, vice president client solutions data science and analytics at The Smart Cube, explores how the use of data can help the industry predict culinary trends. From avocado’s newfound popularity to the boom in kale and the ever-growing presence of kombucha, food trends can seemingly materialise out of the blue and pop up everywhere, from corner cafés to supermarket shelves. Subsequently, these trends tend to stick around, becoming a staple of people’s diets.

For instance, avocado was once considered an exotic, rarely-seen fruit. Nowadays, it is easy to find around the world. There has been an explosive growth in the popularity of the product, which shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the global market, which was valued at over nine billion US dollars in 2021, is forecasted to reach nearly 20 billion US dollars by 2026. With food and beverage itself being a trillion-dollar industry, being able to predict what these changes will be and when they’ll happen can lead to large-scale commercial activity. This makes it imperative for food manufacturers to understand consumers’ developing needs. As such, organisations in this sector are increasingly investing in analytics, data science and other technologies in the hope of gaining that all-important glimpse of the future and predicting what the next big trend will be. Data analysis and artificial intelligence There are numerous ways in which food manufacturers and retailers utilise data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) to forecast future trends. For example, Tastewise provides its users with almost real-time industry insights and predictions by using sentiment analysis and natural language processing to automatically extract data from social media posts, restaurant menus and recipes. From this, the data can be used to identify and follow trends before they enter the wider public’s consciousness. Similarly, other businesses are deploying AI, which uses named-entity recognition to highlight new words or terms being used with increasing regularity within its data pool – meaning they’re able to spot trends that are on the verge of emerging and exploding. Additionally, some firms are utilising AI and machine learning to discover the popularity of specific flavours within different markets. Importantly, the technology is also being used to predict how long these trends could last so businesses are capable of making smarter, data-driven investments. Listening to experts Prior to arriving on supermarket shelves, most new trending culinary products start in restaurants. From there, most of these go on a journey which is relatively simple to predict. At least, this is the hypothesis behind the work at Datassential, a firm that has come up with The Menu Adoption Cycle. According to Datassential, there are four stages of the cycle. All trends begin with the initial inception of a new ingredient or trend before going on to their initial adoption in restaurants. Then there is the proliferation stage, whereby trends are adjusted for mainstream appeal and, finally, ubiquity – where trends are found throughout all aspects of the food and drink sector. This method allowed the company to keep tabs on kale’s growing popularity, from its initial appearance on menus in 2009 to it reaching mainstream appeal in 2013. Tracking health trends Another important way to predict future trends is by monitoring societal drivers. Indeed, it’s not only restaurants that influence our eating habits. As we continue to learn about how the food and drink we consume affect our health, the decisions we make as a society have shifted. Research from Forbes discovered that healthfulness is the biggest driver in determining what people eat and drink – more so than taste and price. Keeping a watchful eye on these trends and concerns can help food manufacturers predict the direction the industry will move in. Whether it be a new, celebrity-endorsed diet or a movement towards reducing sugar consumption, these societal changes can help determine which products are likely to see their popularity explode in the near future. The challenge is establishing how long these trends are set to last. Global events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, can impact the importance people place on health. The only way to tell whether consequent shifts in consumer preferences will stand the test of time, or retreat once the status quo returns, is to continue collecting, combing through, and analysing both past and present data. Personalised diets

When it comes to health and nutrition, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. As data and analytics continue to reveal more about the human body, it’s not only becoming apparent what’s best for us as a species but as individuals, too. One trend that has emerged in recent years is tailored meal plans. For instance, as consumers have become increasingly health conscious, there has been a surge in the number of personalised nutrition apps. For example, Youniq is an app that utilises AI to suggest meals to users and helps to develop an intensely personalised diet plan for them. What’s more, there are services available that analyse people’s genes, guiding us to the best diet according to different nutritional concerns. The DNA testing firm FitnessGene takes an individual’s saliva sample and identifies genetic variants influencing their propensity to suffer a disrupted night’s sleep and gain or lose weight. From this, the company provides personalised dietary recommendations which can improve people’s health. Looking at it from the perspective of the average consumer, culinary trends appear out of thin air. However, for food manufacturers, retailers, and other groups operating in the food and drink industry, this is not the case. By using data, these organisations can find – and provide – the next avocado, kale, or kombucha.

bottom of page