AI Snacks are Here. No, We're Not Joking.
Learn how artificial intelligence is determining the future of office snacks.
Would you drink a futuristic soda whose ingredient list was generated by AI? Or let your “digital twin” virtually consume a snack to see how it could affect your body before you physically chow down? While these may give sci-fi vibes, they're both already possible thanks to recent tech advancements.
We know, we know, AI may feel like this year's NFT, the thing everyone is buzzing about while simultaneously trying to understand how it will impact your life and business. But unlike more passive trends that seem accessible to a small segment of the population, AI snacks and beverages are set to impact every corner of the food space, including your home and office fridges.
If you're struggling to create an office snack program that gets your employees excited to return to the office, it's worth digging into the latest consumption trends. Here are some of the ways AI is affecting modern snacking—and how you can leverage it to build a workplace culture that's worth the commute.
Why Everyone Can't Stop Talking About AI
Artificial intelligence has been around for longer than you might think, with the term being coined in the 1950s. Since then, it's been a popular topic of science fiction ("The Terminator," anyone?) and, more recently, a useful tool in everyday life, from Alexa to Siri to face recognition on your smartphone.
In recent years, it's generative AI that has captured the attention of people around the world thanks to OpenAI’s release of image generator DALL-E in January 2021 and chatbot ChatGPT in November 2022. Since then, companies have been quick to follow suit, with Microsoft releasing Bing Chat and Google releasing Bard in February 2023.
And lately, AI is permeating seemingly every aspect of life. And yes, now, it's come for our snacks.
5 Creative Ways AI Is Shaking Up the Snack Industry
1. Crafting the perfect Cheeto—every time
When you pop a Cheeto into your mouth, what do you expect? The satisfying crunch, the light dusting of orange powder on your fingers? What if we told you that the entire experience had been engineered—and now, potentially, with the help of AI?
Recently, PepsiCo began using AI to enhance its Cheeto manufacturing. Their food scientists joined forces with engineers, machine operators, and product developers to create an algorithm for the ideal Cheeto so that, as each one comes down the line, a computer can scan it, analyze its density and structure, and make instant adjustments as needed. It's not easy being perfectly cheesy!
2. Predicting the next consumer trends before humans can
Of all the AI technologies prevalent in the past year, generative AI takes the cake. With the release of ChatGPT, the general public latched onto this tool's ability to create. Now, for F&B brands, there's TasteGPT.
Image courtesy Tastewise
Trained on millions of data points related to food and beverage, TasteGPT provides unique insights that creator Tastewise claims will help companies gain insights 10x faster. You can ask it things like, "What are the top diets among Gen Z?" or "What are the highest trending coffee flavors?" to get answers that can help drive innovation among F&B products.
Image courtesy Frito-Lay
It turns out even Frito-Lay uses AI for flavor inspiration by tracking trends, seasonal spikes in demand, in-store activity, and social media posts to identify flavors that will be a hit with snackers.
"We can reduce development time by using AI to accelerate consumer behavior tracking along with speeding up our testing processes by as much as 50%—predicting top sellers based on historic analysis of flavor and texture profiles without using time-consuming and expensive surveys," reads a company statement.
3. Personalizing nutrition for people with unique health needs
January AI is a company that combines generative artificial intelligence with digital twin technology (a virtual model designed to accurately reflect a physical object) to help people with pre-diabetes, diabetes and metabolic issues make healthier food choices. The company harnesses the power of wearables, such as continuous heart rate and glucose monitors, to understand and optimize the body's metabolic responses. Instead of waiting to see how certain foods affect their blood sugar, users can create a digital twin and virtually feed those foods to their twin to see those insights beforehand.
Knowing that food companies are operating with these detailed insights can be especially useful for office managers who have employees with health conditions like diabetes and other related issues. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 37.3 million Americans—about 1 in 10—have diabetes, and more than one is likely to work and consume meals at their office.
In October 2023, Nestle entered the AI game by using January AI’s technology in its R&D efforts to explore personalized nutrition and product innovation.
4. Analyzing food at the molecular level to create unique flavor combinations
A big challenge for snack New Product Development (NPD) teams is concocting new flavor creations that consumers will love. Thanks to AI, it's no longer a time-consuming trial-and-error process.
When the Pringles NPD team wanted to launch new flavors that pair well with specific beverages, they contacted Foodpairing. The Belgium-based AI company finds ideal pairings based on the aromatic profiles of more than 1,700 analyzed ingredients. For Pringles, Foodpairing used algorithms to create millions of potential flavor combos and narrowed it down to three by running the options through digital twins of Pringles' target audience. The result? The perfect Pringles flavor to pair with beer: roast beef and mustard!
Image courtesy of Foodpairing.
"Chefs often rely on accidents," Foodpairing CEO Bernard Lahousse told The Globe and Mail. "What our science helps to do is to not rely on accidents."
Similarly, Coca-Cola co-created with artificial intelligence by collecting flavor preferences and running those through Coke's own AI system to develop flavor profiles and pairings of what "the future tastes like." Its new futuristic flavor is called Y3000, which sports a slim can with a pixelated logo against a whimsical blue, purple, and pink background (also developed with the help of AI).
5. Replicating the smell, taste, and texture of animal-based products using only plant-based ingredients
NotCo, the Jeff Bezos-backed tech unicorn based in Chile, wowed the world when it launched its first plant-based products, NotMayo and NotMilk. One registered dietitian called NotMilk "the closest that any non-dairy milk has come to tasting like the stuff from cows."
How did the startup create products so startlingly similar to the foods they claim not to be? Machine learning. NotCo built a proprietary AI platform named Giuseppe that analyzes the molecular compositions of ingredients to find ways to swap animal products for plant-based ones. With every input and every iteration of NotCo's products, the platform gets smarter.
"Thanks to machine learning, Giuseppe gets more intelligent every time, developing products faster, more effectively and more accurately than the previous iterations," the NotCo website reads.
So far, NotCo has created plant-based alternatives for mayo, milk, burgers, and chicken.
Where to Get Your Hands on These Future-Focused Brands
Office managers and workplace teams always have their people's interests at heart. What's more, nutrition has become one of the hottest and most necessary ways to boost employee engagement. Pique your people's interest and satisfy their taste buds by stocking your office kitchen or pantry with some of the brands that are leveraging AI to improve their snacks.
By using Crafty, you can easily automate orders, keep track of inventory and spend, and even have everything delivered and stocked for you. Here are the future-focused brands that we've got in stock:
For a cheesy kick with a satisfying crunch, grab a bag of Cheetos. But let's not forget Frito-Lay's other popular snacks: Lays, Doritos, and Fritos—all available in this classic mix variety pack. And for health-conscious snackers, we’ve also got a box of oven-baked alternatives.
Pringles are the perfect grab-and-go snack, thanks to their packaging. Just pop a can and get snacking. We offer them in a variety pack that includes the original flavor, cheddar cheese, and sour cream and onion. And, we’re always adding new products to the mix.
Let Crafty Help You Anticipate Modern Snacking Trends
Speaking of the future, juggling emails from multiple vendors while trying to keep track of employee food requests is a thing of the past. With intelligent software like Crafty, you get a dashboard and an expert F&B team to help you see your team's consumption trends, manage requests, automate ordering, and stay informed about industry changes—all in one place.
It's how global consultancy Kin + Carta stays on top of the latest and greatest snacks and makes coming back to the office a delight for employees.
"We've started providing new types of snacks and beverages and including our employees in those decisions,” says Miranda Myers, Employee Experience Manager and EVP Americas Lead. “We love asking them what they want to see and what excites them. Even the smallest thing, like adding Coke products, made people freak out. Tiny decisions like that can have a big impact, especially for people who may have started fully remote and it's their first time in the office."
Kin + Carta is enrolled in our Delivery+ service, which grants them access to automated ordering, onsite delivery, an online platform to track budget and consumption data, plus a Crafty delivery specialist to restock and organize the pantry.
Ready to take your F&B program to the next level? Let’s chat.
Amber Alston & Amy Rigby