Digital technology is responsible for reshaping many industries - but in particular, the use of big data and analytics has transformed the business of food.
The forum gathered professionals - including investors, entrepreneurs, suppliers and manufacturers - across the food industry to discuss sustainability and explore ways to safely feed our growing global population. The opening keynote, moderated by Dan Phillips, managing director at Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, featured Paul Schaut and fellow panelists Matias Muchnick, CEO and founder of NOTCO, and Mark Rainey, VP of global food marketing of Archer Daniels Midland Company.
Using Data to Better Understand Your Customer
Paul explained how Label Insight works with retailers, suppliers, CPG brands and government agencies to help them answer their customer's questions, both subjective and objective. Today’s consumer is concerned about whether or not a product includes artificial colors or flavors, or if it complies with a particular diet. The world post-Amazon/Whole Foods has turned the shopping experience upside down, and brands and retailers must be able to communicate in the language of their consumer. He explained how Label Insight data gives them insight into the things they care about and arms brands and retailers with data that can help their e-commerce experience flourish.
On the discovery side, Matias Muchnick explained the role AI plays in product creation. NOTCO develops plant-based food products like mayo, yogurt and other items, and heavily relies on using a machine-learning algorithm to more efficiently account for a wide array of consumer desires. As Muchnick put it, “speed is imperative, especially when you’re dealing with nutrition. With only 20 people in the company, we have to use data and analytics to accelerate.”
Mark Rainey illustrated the power of data: one of his CPG customers was struggling to understand why sales for a once-beloved baby product were lower than forecasted. Through the use of data and analytics, he and his team were able to pinpoint the issue: the brand had been targeting the wrong demographic. This insight helped the CPG brand course-correct, and the product is now enjoying excellent sales numbers once again.
Data Delivers Transparency, which Yields Trust
Paul Schaut addressed the shifting customer demands around greater transparency in the food industry. Just a few years ago, providing transparency was a “nice to have.” It is now considered a mandate. When you look across different industries, he explained, the bar for insight in the food industry is much higher not only from a regulatory perspective, but also from a cost perspective.
“Customer mandates for more information is being translated into trust - in a brand, a product, a retailer. Trust is the future currency for customer loyalty.”
- Paul Schaut, Label Insight CEO
The Future of Big Data & Food
Matias Muchnick shared that he believes big data and analytics will further disrupt the R&D process. He outlined several uses for data on calories, fats, sodium that can be leveraged to help food scientists and manufacturers better understand food.
An audience member asked about the use of predictive capabilities in the food industry to better anticipate items that a shopper might also want. She attended Shoptalk earlier that week - we were there too! - and heard about how Nike can predict which sneaker, size and color a potential (or existing) customer might like based on his or her purchase history. Paul had an interesting take:
“Amazon is forcing the CPG and grocery world to quickly catch up to other industries that have figured out how to better utilize data. We have access to more data than ever before, and customer expectations are higher than they’ve ever been. The food industry needs a single source of truth to bridge the gap.”
Another attendee asked what the panelists believed would be the catalyst to facilitate greater sharing across the chain. Mark Rainey suggested that universities can be a tremendous resource - startups and nonprofits would be remiss to overlook the resources already available to them. Paul Schaut also pointed to our Open Data initiative, which is made available for free to nonprofits and research institutions. In the future, he mused, there will be even more resources available to the food industry: “If we’re a success, there will be a rich data source available.”
Curious to learn more about using Label Insight? We’re helping CPG brands and retailers tackle their toughest product data challenges. Request a demo to learn more.