- Tastewise, an Israel-based food trends prediction and intelligence startup, released its 2019 Food for Function report. The 22-page report said 37% of consumers are using food as a functional tool to reach their health goals — with provolone cheese, maple syrup, pea protein, kefir and maca as the most popular products to help with weight loss, depression and gut health.
- Tastewise also raised $5 million in a funding round to help boost its AI-powered proprietary food trend prediction platform. Leading the round was PeakBridge, a Malta-based investment firm specializing in food tech. This latest investment brings Tastewise's total to $6.5 million, combined with $1.5 million in seed funding from Israel's Pico Venture Partners in 2018.
- Tastewise says its process goes beyond knowing which foods are trending, and instead looks to understanding why. This approach gives food brands "critical insights and more lead time to prepare for the future market demands," the company said in a release.
The Tastewise report findings — derived from analyzing millions of social media posts and photos, restaurant menus, reviews and recipes to find the latest trends — could help food brands target which ingredients will be trending next and how to effectively tap into them.
The report noted consumers favor ingredients that can support gut health — such as watermelon, peppermint and leafy greens. CBD is also increasingly being consumed to boost gut health, sleep, energy and the immune system, the report found. As a result of this research, companies could move to put more of these ingredients in products to make them functional.
For food brands looking to leverage such information in a more timely fashion, there could be big benefits to reaching consumers focused on wellness with on-trend functional ingredients. Since 2018, Starbucks and Monster Energy have tapped into functional coffee, and Unilever added probiotics to its Culture Republick ice cream. Many other functional ingredients are showing up in products across the food and beverage industry.
It's likely AI-powered platforms such as Tastewise's will become more common in the future, as long as their projections pan out. More companies could be turning to the company since this latest funding round allows the platform to grow even more.
But Tastewise isn't the only one using AI to help develop foods. Also banking on this approach is Conagra, which has been using such a platform to narrow down consumer preferences and trim the time between R&D and launch. So far, the technology has led to Healthy Choice grain-free bowls in compostable containers and Reddi-wip Nitro Creamer to make coffee shop-style drinks at home. Other CPG firms using AI to predict trends include McCormick and Nestlé.
Tastewise Co-Founder and CEO Alon Chen told AgFunder News most CPG companies continue to use the same traditional market research and surveys to determine upcoming food trends. But that is no longer enough, he said.
"If you really want to see what is coming in the future, you have to be able to better understand what people are eating and drinking, period. This is what started our journey to actually look at data sets," Chen said.
Earlier this year, Chen told Food Dive the industry needs more dynamic consumer insights in order to avoid missed opportunities. He said it can take six months for a company to do a survey, analyze it, get insights, produce something new or change a menu. And then, despite all the planning, the result is "building for a trend that already happened six months ago."
Whether results from these trend predictions win favor with consumers is another question, but it's one that bears watching. One clue may be how many new products introduced during the next few months feature provolone cheese and maple syrup.