Surprisingly, my eight-year-old’s current favorite toy is one of those old Magic 8 Balls that “predict” the future. Granted, most of his questions revolve around acquiring some Lego set, but he, like so many of us, want more certainty in our future.
Tastewise is a new startup that launched yesterday with a technology that aims to help restaurants and CPG companies better predict food trends using data and artificial intelligence (AI). According to the press announcement, “The platform analyzes billions of critical food and beverage consumer touchpoints to discover people’s real-life interactions with food including over 1 billion food photos shared every month, 153K restaurant menus across the US and over 1M online recipes.”
So Tastewise is looking at all those food pictures people are Instagramming and Tweeting about to see what is hip with the kids. It can also parse different ways items are described. For example, it will know that hamburgers, burgers and sliders are all basically the same thing. It takes all of this information and runs it through its algorithms to recommend new products on both a national and local level (what’s cool in Brooklyn may not be cool in Omaha).
I spoke with Co-Founder Alon Chen by phone, and he told me that with Tastewise, his clients can simply type in a food item like “hummus” and the software will crunch all the data and report back results of not only flavor information (ingredients people are adding to hummus), but also how people are using hummus (not just as a dip, but also as a spread).
Tastewise is offered as a SaaS product, and while specific subscription plans are being worked out, Chen said that they will always offer a free tier of results and a premium version for $299 a month. Exactly what results and insights are available to premium subscribers has yet to be determined.
The flavor-prediction sector is certainly hot like sriracha (though Tastewise says Zhoug is the next sriracha), as there are a number of other B2B players already in the market. Spoonshot and Analytical Flavor Systems both use AI to help companies predict and act quickly on food trends. Even spice company McCormick enlisted IBM’s Watson to help determine what tastes are on the horizon.
When asked about his competition, Chen said that Tastewise “is not a sensory platform.” Rather, his company is looking at what people are saying and the actions they are taking around food to develop consumer insight and intelligence that reflect what is happening and predict what specific foods and flavors will become hits.
Tastewise has raised $1.5 million in funding and has five employees. With CPG companies and restaurants all looking for any kind of edge over their competition, it doesn’t take a Magic 8 Ball to see that Tastewise has picked the right sector. Now we just need to see if it can beat out all the competition.