It seems impossible for giant CPG companies working with thousands of retailers to make individualized products. But according to Kishan Vasani, CEO of Spoonshot, a startup that predicts emerging food trends, there’s still a way for these giant companies to mimic the effects of personalization in their wares.
How, exactly? To get the whole story you’ll have to come to Customize, our Feb 27th in NYC all about breaking down the impact of personalization on the food system. We did, however, ask Vasani a few questions recently about how he defines personalization, its wide-reaching effect, and how big CPG companies can capitalize off of individualization. He also explains his vision for the future in which we’ll all have a “food passport” which restaurants can use to tailor our meals.
Check out the Q&A below then grab your tickets to Customize here (pstt — use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off).
Tell us a little bit about what Spoonshot does.
Spoonshot is on a mission to power genuine agile innovation to the food and beverage industry. Our intelligence details emerging market and consumer needs by transforming long-tail, open information from diverse, authentic data sources. We connect these disparate data sets via our proprietary food science-infused algorithms to deliver personalized insights, predict trends, and identify innovation opportunities.
How can large CPG companies, which have to work on a massive scale, create products that are personalized to consumers?
Firstly, it’s important to clarify what personalization really means (to me). To some it could mean customization (e.g., add blue cheese to a burger). To others, it might be about packaging that has your name on it. I firmly believe that personalization is about implicitly understanding an individual’s needs and desires.
Today it’s not economically possible to create unique products for individual preferences, but CPG companies can create the same effect by having a deep understanding of evolving and emerging trends and innovating exactly against those growth opportunities. Of course, greater agility and efficiency is required at every stage of the product development cycle by employing the relevant technologies.
Ask most CPG executives what the next big food trend is going to be and they will probably name a trend that is well established like plant-based [protein] or CBD. But ask them what’s [after that] and they won’t be so sure. There needs to be significantly more efforts to anticipate consumer needs, and perhaps the largest brands have the economic power to even shape consumer tastes. Too often they fail to exercise this — in contrast to the tech industry, which has been much more successful in pushing innovation upon consumers. iPhone, anyone?
What’s the biggest challenge facing food personalization, specifically within the CPG space?
The biggest challenge to personalization within the CPG space is the way in which data has historically been used and continues to be or not be employed:
- Over-reliance on (yesterday’s) sales data for decisions related to tomorrow’s innovation.
- The lack of use of large, external and diverse data sets. Instagram and Pinterest are not the answer; at best they are just a small part of it.
- The internal data silos, especially in larger businesses who are potentially sitting on data gold and don’t even know it.
- The slow adoption of new data and technology frameworks, particularly by R&D professionals.
How do you think that personalization will play into consumer dining and shopping habits over the next five years?
Personalization will play a central role across the consumer food landscape over the coming decade.
Take personalized recommendations as one use case. Consumers have been used to personalized digital experiences for many years now thanks to leading tech companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Pandora. Yet somehow online food ordering lagged behind. We launched a personalized recommendation engine for online food platforms back in early 2017, but the market wasn’t quite ready. Fast forward two years and McDonald’s acquires Dynamic Yield to do exactly this, and today, the demand for personalized recommendations has never been higher. But this is just one way in which personalization will dominate the industry.
We believe that there will be a “food passport” for every consumer so no matter where you eat, the business producing your food will know everything about your taste preferences and will have the ability to tailor your meal accordingly. There would be some interesting applications in terms of having a digital record of an individual’s consumption, and how health insurance providers might price their plans based upon this data.
Since healthy eating is an established trend, consumers will increasingly demand personalized nutrition in restaurants as well, where science and technology can dictate what food is right for us — not only for weight management but, more importantly, to manage our overall health and wellness.
Another innovation in personalization could be the emergence of (mobile) handheld scanners that help consumers identify allergens, nutrients, and ingredients in their food and provide them with a breakdown of the amounts of sugar, acidity levels and vitamins present in dishes, as well as highlight potential allergens warnings.
Join us in NYC on February 27th to hear Vasani speak more about how CPG companies are leveraging personalization (and lots more). Use code SPOON15 to get 15% off your tickets now.