‘Big Data’ is changing the food industry

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th April 2013

Data analysis is changing the way we manufacture food, track our diets and serve our dishes, having an impact on everything from food safety to trends in restaurants, according to US-based business analysis organisation Good Data.

Writing on the Business2Community website, Good Data’s Ana Andreescu said the saying “you are what you eat” might have to be updated to “you analyse what you eat”.

In the area of food safety, Andreescu said ‘big data’ is already being used by farmers to analyse the quality of their soils, deal with weather patterns and keep up-to-date with the health of their animals. But it could also be used to track food through the supply chain, potentially finding the source of any food safety issues more quickly.

‘Traceability’ is becoming more of a concern for consumers, following food safety scares like the UK’s ‘horsemeat scandal’. “Big data is poised to help the issue of contamination,” said Andreescu.

Data analysis could also help consumers better stick to their diets and decide what to cook for dinner, said Andreescu. She highlighted several mobile phone apps that use ‘big data’ to help consumers generate recipes based on what’s in their cupboards, and others that give information on how best to burn off calories consumed from certain foods and where to buy particular foods most cheaply.

Similarly, she said, a mobile phone app has been developed in the US that allows consumers to scan the barcodes of products to receive more information about the nutritional content of the products. In Australia, the recently released GoScan app plays a similar role, also giving consumers access to promotions and competitions.

‘Big data’ could also be of use to restaurant-owners, said Andreescu, with some mobile phone apps currently available that analyse national and regional restaurant trends and prices.

“Combining need fulfillment with ease of use is an ideal scenario for big data,” wrote Andreescu. “It should be something we can use on a daily basis, accessing analysis easily and frequently to optimise our lives, whether personal or at work,” she said.