Tangential Technology – The Future of Food is Ripe

The bees in my head are very busy this morning….and here is my latest foodie data rumbling:  How will the hottest technology trends in the high tech market today impact the ongoing transformation in Foodtech?

(1) Big Data and Analytics – being front and center for IBM’s transformative ventures into Cognitive Commerce, I see the power, profit and scale that these solutions can bring to both enterprise and small to medium businesses.   The larger food players have already realized that leveraging the power of consumer and supply chain data properly can mean customer loyalty, retained market share and ongoing brand survival.

(2) Blockchain and Digital Currencies – In the early days, bitcoin and cryptocurrency may have been viewed by many as the rebellious flailings of anti-establishment revolutionists, challenging the status quo of a staid and traditionally conservative Financial Services sector.  Today, the growth of blockchain paradigms as models for how to transform Commerce applications are no longer relegated to the Financial Services sector.  This shift means data remains king to consumer retention and trend relevance. Amazon Coins, as one example, and the pervasive issues around addressing digital currency in e-commerce, causes me wonder how food technologists will leverage this development explosion to increase customer adoption and e-commerce transformation.

(3) Virtual and Augmented Reality – Marketers of all types look at the promise of VR and AR like a starving man looks at a warm meal.  The acceleration of consumer access to first generation VR means we all may have cool new ways to use our iphones and devices as soon as this upcoming holiday season.  Once VR (and more importantly AR) come to the masses in an affordable and commercially available way, e-commerce and just in time consumption business models will explode.  How are food technologists planning to capitalize on this?

What say you, FoodieData thinkers?  What are your bees buzzing about?

The Spotlight of Social Media: How Does the Food Chain Really Work?

You cannot scan your news feed or check your Twitter or Face Book account these days without seeing some post about food safety.  Whether it be bacteria tainted infant formula in China, unsafe handing of bean sprouts in Germany or the infamous Mad Cow disease scandal, the proliferation of stories of unsafe foods in our local food chain has now become a frequent and unwelcome buzzing in the background.

Stories of such outbreaks spread instantaneously across social media, leading this humble blogger to wonder about the role of information technology in changing both producer and consumer behavior.  The “pink slime” beef incident in the US recently lit a fire under the issue of the media in public safety.  Meatingplace, the meat processing industry’s trade magazine, fired back and wrote an article about the incident and role social media and non-food experts played in creating consumer fear.   Last year, a shopper at Safeway in Arizona made a splashy social media play to a local news station when she found a chicken foot shrink wrapped in a package of chicken breasts.  These kind of local stories have the viral capacity to lead consumers to wonder, just who is minding my food?

How well does the average consumer really understand how the food we consume is produced, processed and brought to market?  The complexity of sourcing, tracking, reporting, packaging, marketing, and distributing through a variety of end user channels is vastly different for fresh perishables like summer tomatoes and lettuce, proteins like beef and fish, and packaged goods like breakfast cereal and frozen dinners.  Add Nutrition Labeling and Allergen policies mandating the food system make ingredients and nutritional data more transparent to consumers and we are all swimming in one complicated food chain stew.

As consumers read more news stories, scan new product packaging and begin to worry about the safety of food on their dinner tables, will the inevitable proliferation of social media news change our dialog about food?  Will the average consumer connect the dots between a local product recall and the source of that product?

What say you, FoodieData thinkers?