How AI is shaking up the future of food & beverage manufacturing

Dec 28, 2023 by Mark Dingley

There’s nothing artificial about improving your supply-chain efficiency in beverage manufacturing


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has dominated the media this year, but what's happening in the food & beverage space? Is the food & beverage industry headed toward a future where AI will play a significant role?

The reality is AI is progressing much faster than anyone expected. Just look at PepsiCo, where AI has become a vital tool for the business and its employees.

From the optimum time to plant potatoes, to predicting how many bags of Lay's should go on retailer shelves, AI is reshaping how PepsiCo plans, makes, moves, sells and delivers products.

Then there's Giuseppe, the AI program developed by NotCo, an alternative protein startup, to understand everything about the foods we love, and recreate them by replacing all animal products with plant-based ingredients.

And that’s only the beginning.

Here's a roundup of the latest AI innovations in food and beverage.

Product development

More and more brands are beginning to employ Generative AI in their design and development stages. Generative AI, a subset of AI, involves algorithms that can generate new content or designs from scratch, given a set of rules and inputs.

By feeding parameters and requirements into generative design software, manufacturers can obtain optimised design solutions that meet their criteria and present options they might have yet to consider.

These designs can then be tested and refined in the metaverse, leading to innovative and efficient real-world applications.

In France, AI-powered plant-based cheese will be hitting the shelves in 2024 due to a partnership between The Bel Group and Climax Foods, Inc.

Climax Foods is a US-based company that uses AI to match plant-based alternatives’ texture, flavour and nutrient density with their conventional counterparts.

The two companies will bring plant-based cheese to the market for brands such as Laughing Cow, Boursin and Babybel.

German beer brand Becks recently used AI to create the limited-edition Beck's Autonomous to celebrate its 150-year anniversary across Germany, Italy and the UK. Becks used the technology to generate the recipe and name and design the logo, container and advertising campaign.

The new and novel product tapped into the AI trend, enabling the brew to stand out from its competitors and generate a buzz. It's no surprise the beer sold out within minutes.

The incredible thing about AI is that it can speed up the product innovation cycle. For PepsiCo, an AI-powered tool analysed millions of social posts online to reveal that people were discussing, searching for and ordering seaweed products. In less than 12 months, their R&D team developed Off The Eaten Path seaweed snacks.

Predictive maintenance

What if AI could tell you exactly when to repair and maintain food processing & packaging equipment?

Manufacturers use AI to analyse data from sensors and machinery on the factory floor to understand how and when failures and breakdowns are likely to occur. They can then ensure that resources and spare parts are on hand to provide a quick fix while also more accurately predicting and accounting for any downtime that can be expected.

This can bring considerable savings in machine failure and repair costs and reduce downtime and material loss while extending the life of equipment.

Forecast consumer demand

One of the world’s largest producers of tequila, Proximo Spirits, is using an AI business decision-making cloud by Aera Technology to predict demand using the most recent data available from a range of sources, meaning it can manage inventory more effectively and respond to change quickly across product lines in the US and Canada.


Food & beverage companies are turning to AI and machine learning to help reduce waste and identify inefficiencies within the supply chain.

OneThird, a Dutch food-tech startup, combines optical scanners, image modelling, spectroscopy and AI-driven insights to provide shelf-life estimates for produce within one day of accuracy.

The company claims it can reduce up to 25% of produce waste across the supply chain by offering real-time information that can provide optimal best-before codes, help suppliers avoid spoilage during transit or allow manufacturers to convert would-be-spoiled produce into shelf-stable formats.

When it comes to product innovation, NotCo claims its AI technology cuts R&D development timelines, while also reducing valuable resource inputs, such as water, carbon emissions and electricity.

Is your business ready for AI?

Understanding how AI technology can impact your organisation and whether there are opportunities worth pursuing is essential.

Here are four questions that can help:

1. How can AI create value in our business?

AI’s value extends beyond process automation, as we've seen above. It can generate insights, personalise customer experiences, streamline supply chains and promote innovation. Identify areas where AI can add the most value to your business by driving revenue, enhancing services, or reducing costs.

2. What data do we have, and how can we use it with AI?

AI thrives on data. The more quality data you have, the more effective your AI will be. Do you have access to relevant, clean, quality data? How will you collect and maintain your data? And who owns the data?

3. What skills do we need?

Implementing AI is highly likely to require new skills within your team – whether that's data scientists, AI specialists, or machine learning experts. Consider whether you can re-skill current employees or whether hiring new talent will be worthwhile.

4. How will AI impact our employees?

AI adoption can lead to job transformation or displacement. How will AI affect your employees’ roles? How can you support your workforce through this transition, and what retraining programs can you provide?

The future of AI is accelerating

The time to start thinking about AI is now. Food & beverage companies worldwide are leaning into AI to determine which ingredients work better, discover what customers want, improve processes and save costs. AI can help businesses increase the output, quality and reliability of their food & beverage products. So what are you waiting for?