The role of tech in disrupting the food sector

Founder of Studio Graphene, Ritam Gandhi, talks about how manufacturers, retailers and restaurants can tap into digital solutions for convenience, safety and consumer satisfaction. 

30 October 2018
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The rise of food tech has enabled businesses of all sizes to transform the way they operate, improve efficiency and bring more people through their (virtual or real) doors. From apps that allow food and drink companies to effectively monitor their supply chains, through to automated labelling systems and the use of artificial intelligence to sell products, tech interventions continue to grow.

But we are still at the very beginning of the industry’s digital transformation, according to Ritam Gandhi, founder of Studio Graphene.

His company develops blank-canvas tech products for businesses, such as a delivery app called Alchemy Wings that allowed consumers to order drinks and snacks from the nearest store immediately and virtual healthy-eating assistant Stop My Cravings.

Here, he writes about three ways to capitalise on tech innovation. 

IoT and blockchain

The Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain have already had a transformative impact on the food and drinks sector.

IBM recently unveiled a blockchain-based food traceability platform, which can be utilised by retailers, wholesalers and suppliers across the food ecosystem. The IBM Food Trust tool strengthens transparency and reliability in the food chain and significantly improves food traceability – adding value for both businesses and consumers.

It allows businesses to source products and certify them as organic or fair trade, while ensuring that consumers are buying safe, high-quality produce. Take the frozen vegetable listeria outbreak for instance, which resulted in the mass recall of frozen vegetables across the country. Had a more granular, accurate supply chain tracing system been in place, the contaminated products would have been easily identified and disposed of.

Meanwhile, uses of IoT in food safety include products like Hawk Safety – an app that Studio Graphene recently brought to life. Hawk is a food safety and temperature monitoring system that is now being used by the likes of John Lewis, M&S and Selfridges. Automating the process of monitoring the temperature of fridges and freezers, this IoT-powered system saves businesses time and money through accurate digital monitoring. 

Catering to changing consumer demands

One reason why there has been a notable uptake in digital innovation across the food and drink industry is due to changing consumer demands. The new wave of ‘technology of convenience’ means that consumers now readily have access to a whole suite of products that can be ordered at the touch of a button.

The rise of tech-enabled food delivery platforms has also changed the way people engage with restaurant chains and local eateries.

So what’s in store for the future? With the recent evolution of the drone industry, it may come as no surprise that this technology is now being trialled for food delivery services. UberEats is pioneering the way in this field, reportedly having trialled the world’s largest food delivery programme this year – predicted to be rolled out by 2021 if trials go successfully. 

Despite the fierce competition in the food delivery market, there is still plenty of room for innovation in this space. Countless start-ups have been launched in recent years, including services like Alchemy Wings, and it’s a space that will continue to see new competitors try and break in. 

Using technology to improve the customer experience

When was the last time you visited a new restaurant without checking online reviews first? Customer experience has always been important, but with the shadow of Google Reviews, TripAdvisor and countless online critics hanging over restaurateurs, owners need to go to new lengths to ensure that they not only deliver exceptional service, but are collecting the data needed from their customers.

Studio Graphene’s work on Twistar – an interactive device that customers can use to easily provide feedback on their experience – is helping businesses address this growing demand with a better feedback loop.

Twistar harnesses AI and IoT connectivity to pose important questions to customers about their dining experience and gauge their responses in real time. It includes using voice-enabled, emotional Artificial Intelligence. Products like this mean that restaurants and retailers can now proactively collect useful insight, gauge customer satisfaction and work to address any comments and concerns that are raised in the moment, at the table, in a way that their diners will truly engage with.

From farmers and logistics firms to retailers and restaurateurs, it is vital that business owners and teams within larger companies consider how new tech could improve their output. In most instances, the technology itself already exists – it is the idea and the execution that will determine its success.

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