Will AI potentially help or hinder snacks shopping?

Will choosing treats digitally with AI take hold, or will conventional shopping still remain key in years ahead? Pic: Tony's Chocolonely

There’s little doubting the impressiveness of just how rapidly AI has risen as a phenomenon over the past two years, which has stacked up huge media interest around the world.

Its potential application across a host of industries has made it one of the hottest tickets in town in terms of how it can save labour, improve efficiency and aid research – yet as has been widely reported, it is presently only as good as the data that it can pull in at any one moment in time.

Consequently, governments and industry around the world has frantically raced to catch up with this epic digital entity, which industry observers recently noted to Confectionery Production recently, is not in itself, new tech – it’s essentially harnessing the abilities of search engine development that have been built up over the past two decades.

So, its use certainly set to be felt in our own sector, and according to a new consumer study, selecting snacks at pace could be a potential gap in the market.

According to a new study from Accenture, 45% of shoppers are potentially open to AI helping them select snacks and confectionery on the basis that these items were considered far more difficult than regular groceries to choose. This appears a  somewhat surprising finding – as for many people, seeking out the latest treat is something that remains a fun activity that should in theory be no more complex than placing anything else in a basket?

But on the flip side, perhaps there is something to the notion that consumers can often be confused by unclear labelling and expanded product categories that now have additional considerations that incorporate dietary requirements including gluten free, plant based, sustainably sourced, or sugar free ranges that may not always be logically placed on our shelves.

This is a factor that has consistently emerged in consumer studies, but even accounting for such situations, is it really the case that buying an indulgent treat is really all that hard to the point that we would need AI to not only research products for us, but actually place the orders, as well as have them delivered to us all as well.

Shopping online is nothing new in itself, but engaging with AI to shape our choices, is a new factor that inevitably younger generations are likely to be most readily in tune with, but whether a ‘digital personal snacking shopper’ is something that there will be a high demand for, only time will tell.

I guess I for one, certainly still enjoy browsing products and seeing what’s new out there – it’s a simple pleasure, but an undeniable one. It’s simply quite enjoyable checking out what’s new on the food scene. Granted, there may be some items that may be a little confusing on the shelves, but that is all part and parcel of the broader shopping experience.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production

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