When you think of pairing technology and food, does it elicit a reaction akin to that of a fine red wine and a delicious cheese plate amongst friends? Probably not… but it should. Technology is changing everything about the ways we source and interact with food. And no, we aren’t just talking about the need to keep our phones on the dinner table, or the huge number of food snapshots posted on social channels. As food communicators, technology is forcing us to step past the buzzwords and descriptors when thinking of how, and with whom, consumers enjoy their meals. Ultimately, understanding what’s on our plate, and the portions we are consuming, is heightening the overall meal experience for all parties.
Tapping into the growing curiosity among consumers to evolve their dining experience and relationship with food, several tech start-ups are providing a deeper layer of insight than ever before.
For example, newcomer SmartPlate monitors what you’re enjoying and the speed at which you’re enjoying it through digital cameras and algorithms. The intent is that this data will encourage users to physically eat slower, and perhaps enjoy the company around them, while discouraging overindulgence. The algorithms promise 99 percent accuracy, according to SmartPlate, and load sensors under each partition on the plate that measure the exact weight of each portion.
The San Francisco Bay Area is brimming with food-focused start-ups taking aim at restaurant menus to help those who have medical conditions—whether it be food allergies, new medications reactions or general ingredient preference. For example, SF-based 6Sensor Labs is deploying technologies that help consumers answer complex questions regarding food allergies and sensitivities right at their fingertips in an effort to enhance their overall dining experience. Nearly 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from food allergies, which results in more than 200,000 hospital visits a year. The technological innovations powering companies 6Sensor Labs can provide consumers with the information they need to make smart eating decisions, ultimately amplifying any food experience for both the diner and the purveyor.
Consumers examining the food that they consume is not a new theme, but this archetype is becoming a main differentiator for wider mass audiences who enjoy open, online communication to express their love of food.
Technology breeds disruption in any market, and food communicators need to build and strengthen their relationships with both individual food consumers and powerful social influencers, both of which have an increased need to make more informed purchasing decisions. New technological players helping us to better understand what’s on our plate are challenging restaurants to evolve the dining experience, which starts on the dish. Disruption can be challenging, but we predict these technologies will be a food purveyor and communicator’s best friend. Adding data-driven insights to an already strong brand narrative facilitates consumer relationships and strengthens the overall consumer experience.