Artificial intelligence, the food sector and the consumer

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Source: Government of Alberta

AI use has accelerated in recent years and significantly transformed numerous industries, including the grocery and food service industries.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) use in the retail and service sectors has created many opportunities as well as challenges,” says Jeewani Fernando, provincial consumer market analyst with the Alberta government. “Retail experts think AI is going to be a huge disruptor in the grocery business. Research indicates most grocery industry executives agree that AI will revolutionize information sharing and interacting with customers.”

Fernando says the grocery industry uses AI in a number of ways, including:

  • Pricing and promotion – There are AI-driven applications that use historical data to simulate the future and find the optimal price and product mix to grow retails sales.
  • Business and supply chain optimization – AI can help wholesalers and retailers examine demand and supply to arrange deliveries at the best times and keep the right products on shelves.
  • Cashier-free payments – With AI in point-of-sale applications, cashierless grocery stores are becoming mainstream.

“AI is also quicky becoming integral to restaurant operations, from streamlining processes to enhancing the customer experience,” adds Fernando. “For example, AI is being used to automate a number of simple and routine tasks in restaurants, which helps cut costs. By embracing AI’s ability to perform these tasks, restaurants can free up employees to do what they do best, which is focusing on guests. And AI-based marketing applications can supercharge a restaurant’s efforts to identify new customers and send targeted promotions that translate into business transactions.”

A recent study by Dalhousie University gauged consumer awareness of AI use within the food industry. Among the findings:

  • When asked if they were aware of the use of AI in the food industry, 37.9% of Canadians had never heard of it being used.
  • When asked if they were worried about AI use in the grocery or food service industries, 26.5% of respondents said they were worried about the potential negative impact on jobs.
  • When asked about the use of AI for personalized recommendations for groceries or restaurant menu items, 23.4% of respondents thought it was a good idea.
  • The survey revealed Canadian consumers do not want to pay more for food when AI is used.

“Grocers and food service operators are benefiting from using AI-based applications and technologies in their operations, which allow them to deliver more personal, affordable and sustainable experiences for their customers,” says Fernando. “The food industry needs to use AI to meet evolving consumer preferences, behaviours and demands; but it is essential for the food industry to build consumer trust in AI use through ethical practices and transparency.”

For more information, see:

Consumer Corner