Will AI Make For Better CPG Products? These Startups Think So
While the overall food tech market has seen a contraction in funding in 2022 as venture capitalists grow more cautious, one area of companies that appears to continue to generate interest is those using ML and other forms of AI to drive CPG decision-making, product development and core ingredient development.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen a slew of startups raise funding, announce new products, and pitch their platforms for AI-powered CPG. Here are just a few examples:
This week, NotCo, a Jeff Bezos-backed startup with roots in Chile, announced a $70 million Series D at a $1.5 billion valuation. The funding will be used to launch the startup’s B2B business where it will open access to its AI platform to other CPG brands to accelerate plant-based CPG product development. The launch of the B2B platform comes after the company announced a new joint venture with Kraft Heinz earlier this year, under which they have already launched plant-based versions of Kraft’s cheese slices.
StarDay, a startup that bills itself as a ‘next-generation food conglomerate’, has just launched its third CPG product, a gut-friendly salted rice product. The company’s ‘Starday Insights Machine’ uses natural language processing, machine learning models, testing capabilities and analytical insight tools to “identify and predict trends, guide our investments and accelerate the product development process”. The company has raised $4 million in seed funding.
Verusen’s approach to leveraging AI is to use it to help other CPGs create more resilient supply chains. The company claims it has created $30 million in “working capital optimization” for a global CPG brand (which it doesn’t name). Verusen says its platform “uses artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, data harmonization and decision support to help global brands control risk, achieve supply chain resilience and improve economies of scale for their operations.”
Fractal has created a CPG and retail-focused AI platform called Asper AI, which the company claims “unifies demand planning, sales and distribution, inventory planning, and pricing and promotion.” Fractal says its ‘autonomous decision-making platform’ can help CPG and retail companies achieve “10%+ potential growth opportunities in financial performance and more than 50% in decision-making automation.”
SymphonyAI has an “end-to-end, integrated AI-powered commerce, marketing and supply chain solutions for retailers and CPG manufacturers” which it recently used to help German retail giant Metro GMBH optimize its SKU mix and find retail. shelf space efficiency for its Romanian storefronts.
Shiru is building a B2B business for CPG brands looking to create plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. The company’s Flourish platform uses machine learning to mine a proprietary database for the purpose of developing plant-based functional ingredients.
The interest in using new approaches for CPG product development, supply chain optimization and ingredient discovery comes at a time of upheaval for the broader industry. Concerns about the supply chain, persistent inflation, global geopolitical instability and rapidly changing consumer tastes have all made modeling the future a much more difficult task, putting pressure on CPG brands and their retailers to shorten product development and planning cycles.
While it’s worth asking how many of these startups are using true “artificial intelligence” or simply capitalizing on the desire among brands to reconfigure their development process, there’s no doubt that using the rapidly maturing and powerful AI technology that have reached the commercialization phase will be a trend that only intensifies in 2023.