Specialty Food Magazine

Winter 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1194330

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Page 36 of 115

Data science Machine learning and artificial intelligence Targeted promotions Blockchain in food safety and traceability Robotics "Leveraging data and data science to derive insights is one of the biggest areas of opportunity," says Brian Wilkinson, chief information officer, KeHE Foods. "New technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence will help us mine thousands of terabytes of data to detect trends, risks, and opportunities that we couldn't have dreamed of just a few years ago." In addition, mobile technologies and the Internet of Things are maturing rapidly, he says, and stand to enhance the retail experience. "The opportunity for personalization of the store experience through a digital medium will drive new ways to grow sales through targeted promotions, analytics around people behaviors, and seamless integration between online and in-store formats," says Wilkinson. Data may also play an increasing role in helping manage food safety challenges and traceability, he says, citing the potential of blockchain technology in that area in the future. Foodservice operators are also embracing technology, both to enhance personalization and to streamline operations through robotics and other innovations. One such operator is Ono Food Co., which recently opened a mobile smoothie truck that relies heavily on robotics and automation to process orders. The truck features a modular, robotic kitchen that functions like an assembly line to create a range of signature smoothie blends. "At Ono Food Co., we believe the future of food is modular," says Stephen Klein, co-founder and chief executive officer. "At its core, this means flexibility and adaptability. For example, our robotics kitchen could be used in a busy airport stall, sports stadium, or concert venue where real estate is at a premium." He says he expects to see operators scaling automation technology faster and more efficiently. "We believe that robotics and automation have the power to revolutionize the restaurant space," Klein says. "We can expect to see more operators approaching their concepts with an eye toward automation that we haven't seen in years past. That said, it doesn't matter how well your technology is functioning if you don't have a quality and consistent product." Another foodservice company that is embracing technology in its operations is Centerplate, a noncommercial foodservice operator owned by French foodservice giant Sodexo. Centerplate has been testing a variety of advanced technologies throughout its operations, including a robotic pizza maker that the company deployed for the last 12 home games of the Seattle Mariners baseball team at T-Mobile Park. The technology "could potentially be a game- changer for us and the industry, when it comes to addressing the labor shortage and ensuring product quality consistency," says Steve Pangburn, chief operating officer, Centerplate. "Technology is an incredibly important facet for the future of our food-and-beverage approach at our sports venues," he says. "We are taking a careful, design-minded approach with our in-house data analytics and emerging payments teams to make sure our solutions are as forward-facing and user-friendly as possible." The goal is to move toward a more seamless and frictionless customer journey for game attendees, and to make food-and-beverage concessions user friendly. Along those lines, Centerplate has also deployed technology called CLEAR, which allows customers to use fingerprints for payment and age verification at T-Mobile Park, and a new mobile ordering tool at BC Place in Vancouver. "This type of innovation will only increase in the next few years," says Pangburn. Among the "next frontiers" of food and beverage concessions will be leveraging ticket sales data and order histories for specific seats in order to generate targeted offers, he says. Capital Provides Opportunities Overall, business conditions are looking good for the specialty food industry heading into 2020, says Barnholt of KeHE Foods. "It's exciting that natural and specialty products are driving overall CPG growth heading into the new year—a trend that we've been seeing for some time now," he said in a presentation at the distributor's Holiday Show in June. Access to capital is helping small, specialty brands get to market, he adds. "Capital is easier to find for food brands—specifically offers with lower interest rates from a more diverse pool of investors—which is helping innovative brands get to market quicker, while keeping more of their equity and innovative control," says Barnholt. 2020 OUTLOOK: TECH TRENDS PHOTOS: STEPHEN KLEIN (ONO FOOD CO.) 34 SPECIALTY FOOD SPECIALTYFOOD.COM C M Y CM MY CY CMY K INDUSTRY OUTLOOK Mark Hamstra is regular contributor to Specialty Food.

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