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By and large, Americans are concerned about what they eat, where it comes from and what the impact of that product is on the world around them. Grocery shoppers can be seen more closely examining product labels, and manufacturers are including and highlighting key information.

Many manufacturers and shoppers are leveraging Smart Label (smartlabel.org) to provide and obtain important product information around ingredients, allergens and nutrition beyond the package label to get additional information, like how to use or prepare the product, how to recycle the packaging, safety and handling instructions, and recipes.

While these capabilities can provide the information consumers seek, they can be awkward and time-consuming to access. And what about farm-fresh produce? How can a grocery shopper know the apples they are about to purchase come from a farm less than 50 miles away, minimizing the impact on the environment and supporting the local community?

Store signage can help but requires manual execution, which may not always be timely. And more and more, shoppers are ordering their groceries online.







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A digitally rendered example of what artificial intelligence assistant shoppers could look like as demonstrated with the Quin shopper.




This is where artificial intelligence can help.

Artificially intelligent shopping assistants can know everything about every item in a grocery store. This includes information on ingredients, allergens, product source and more.

These shopping assistants are experts in recipes, nutrition and meal preparation. It knows the pricing on every item and its location in the store.

This information has the potential to streamline and improve the shopping experience, allowing shoppers to find and purchase the items that meet their needs — even when those needs may have complicated constraints or include requirements not found on an ingredients label.

These applications use “conversational artificial intelligence” made possible by natural language processing. This allows shoppers to interact with the expert in a comfortable and familiar way, either by voice or typing.

The assistant can provide in-store answers to questions like the following:

• Which fruits are lower in sugar and sourced from a farm in state?

• Which fresh vegetables are sourced from a farm less than 50 miles from the store and can be used in a chicken recipe?

• What fresh fruits are low in acid and cost less than $1.50 per serving?

Food marketing students at St. Joseph’s University recently examined the potential impact of a conversational artificial intelligent shopping assistant on the shopper’s journey, using a system called Quin (verneek.com) at a local grocer.

Students identified potential benefits to the shopper, retailer and manufacturer, leveraging the vast capabilities of conversational artificial intelligence.

Consider vision-impaired shoppers who can now speak to the assistant on their phone to identify products that meet their criteria without having to try to read small print on labels. Or busy families with allergy concerns who can use it to find entire meal solutions and identify the items required to prepare a recipe as a shopping list.

Conversational artificial intelligent shopping assistants hold the potential to allow shoppers to find and purchase the items that meet their specific requirements, even when those requirements may be complex and not visible on a product label. 

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