Making sense of food data: Big Data knows what you should eat!

Health / Pharma   |   
Published June 4, 2015   |   

Maggi noodles is unsafe and it is banned! Every Indian and people all around the world must have heard of this recent fiasco over dangerously high level of lead and MSG levels in Maggi. Only, if it had proper Big Data tools, Nestle Maggi could have saved itself from the nightmare it’s currently facing.
Yes, IBM has a Big Data tool currently being used by Cheesecake Factory, Las Vegas, which can analyze standardized food products based on differences in color, taste or consistency of ingredients. This data is processed real-time, so the batch of food affected can be withdrawn immediately before reaching the markets. This can avoid a ban countrywide. Had the batch of Maggi been analyzed, people would still be safely and happily eating it.
Big Data tracking tools along with sensors and RFID technology are finding place in the Inventories of the big food companies. They monitor the location (GPS) and condition record of logistics, monitors temperature and other pre-requisites for cold-storage and timeliness of distribution. It helps companies keep a real-time update if there is any issue in the temperature or the truck faces any technical issue (flat tyre/empty fuel tank). In case of an issue, action can be immediately taken to avoid the degradation of food products.
Not only this, Big Data can also create new recipes!!! Mind-boggling right? Tools are being developed by IBM and other companies to analyse human tastes, preferences, ingredient combinations, molecules and chemical combinations and come up with tongue-tickling and heart-relishing dishes on the platter! It helps the chefs and restaurant-owners know what the latest trending dishes are and what is to be dropped off the Menu.
Mc-Donalds is using Big Data to analyse and maintain its standardization throughout the outlets, based on the modifications required as per the region/country. Starbucks, on the other hand, uses it to keep a record of what their customers like/prefer to order so as to provide them with relevant deals/exciting offers and suggestions on combos/side dishes giving the customers a personalized experience. The restaurants are able to analyze their ratings and position in the market which helps them change their ambience and keep a check on their serving/staff hospitability. They can keep a record of VIP customers and birthdays/anniversaries of regular customers so the restaurant can delight them with little surprises. Loyalty programs, just like retail stores are also becoming popular in the food industry and give the customers a personalized feel thereby increasing their visiting frequency. Last but probably the most important, it also analyzes the market prices of dishes thereby helping the restaurants avoid over-pricing/under-pricing and yet earn decent profits; and the customers to get the best deals.
Websites like Food Genius, Xplenty, GrubHub, Petoo analyze the foodservice lifecycle- from manufacturing to the dish being served and have trends dashboards which help the consumers select the best and restaurants to improvise as per the market. These websites open the door to a large no. of opportunities, specially for the new players in the market.
The Entrepreneurs today are better informed and updated with the latest technology and like in every other field, they plan to use analytics rather than relying on age-old intuition and guess-work or chef experience. The oldies and biggies too, should learn fast and cope-up; else they would have to soon cook only for their staff and management.