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Customizing our food is a decades-old practice we’ve come to expect if not outright demand when it comes to the way we eat. Fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Sweetgreen are built on the idea of each person customizing a meal to their specific eating needs. Most of us will to some degree customize the traditional Thanksgiving spread tomorrow, using plant-based ingredients in place of meat or maybe even turning the whole meal into a bowl of ramen. Meanwhile, there are reportedly 87,000 ways to order a drink at Starbucks. Can our food and beverage consumption get any more customizable.
Yes, actually, and largely thanks to tech. As we discuss often at The Spoon, apps and other tools powered by AI and machine learning, big data and analytics, as well as food science and research are making it possible to customize our food right down to our DNA. That includes food not only at restaurants or holiday feasts, but also with our daily meals and snacks, our dietary needs and restrictions, and even our grocery shopping lists.
Customizing and personalizing our food through tech, however, is a relatively new practice. While some standardization is beginning to occur — notably in the QSR drive-thru lane — this space is right now a pretty fragmented one, with many ideas and solutions but no clear idea yet as to how they come together to help us eat smarter and enjoy our food at the same time.
That’s why we created Customize, a one-day executive summit slated to take place on February 27 in NYC. During the one-day event, which will be held at WeWork’s 85 Broad St. space, The Spoon will examine topics from the world of food personalization, including microbiome-based nutrition, AI-powered grocery recommendations, new developments in CPG products, and much more.
We’re already got a great lineup of speakers to talk about the impact of personalization in the grocery store, at the restaurant table and in our own kitchens, and we’re adding more every week so make sure to check them out!
Nutrition is one area where customization is going to be huge, and indeed is already showing up via apps and websites that help users determine the kinds of foods they should be eating and plan out meals and diets.
Trouble is, it’s one thing to download an app that promises to help you eat healthier. It’s another to actually take the time to track the food you’re eating and determine whether it has any actual nutritional value in your life (hey, iceberg lettuce).
That’s where companies like Foodvisor come in. As my colleague Chris Albrecht noted recently, the French nutritional coaching app startup lets users simply snap a picture of their food then, using computer vision and deep learning, the app analyzes it and auto-creates a nutritional report of the food. The company just raised $4.5 million in fresh funds, and it’s one of a growing number of food-tracking apps out there. Another notable example is Bite.ai’s app, which also offers consumers visual food tracking through their smartphones.
Getting consumers to actually change out unhealthy eating habits for smarter ones is, of course, a whole other mountain to tackle, and one we’ll be discussing more of at Customize.
Last-Minute Food Tech Hacks for Thanksgiving
Of course you may have more immediate concerns around customization, like how in the heck you’re going to get dinner on the table on time and with every dish at the right temperatures.
Fear not. Chris put together this handy guide that highlights a few pieces of connected-kitchen gear that could make your cooking easier, some of which you can still grab before your Thanksgiving cooking commences.
Finally, if you are planning on going to CES and are looking to explore some food tech in Vegas, make sure to check our Food Tech Live event. If you want to showcase your product at FTL drop us a line, and if you want to attend you can request a ticket here.