At Food Industry Foresight we’re always exploring new and better ways to compile and share information of value to both foodservice suppliers and operators.
Our newest initiative in this regard is the FS2 (Foodservice Too) Project, which is exploring how the foodservice industry can take advantage of digital innovation to facilitate the exchange and sharing of non-commercially sensitive product and nutritional data.
By making this information more openly available and transparent, all industry stakeholders stand to benefit – including manufacturers, suppliers, operators and consumers. “When it comes to accessing lower cost data and insights, one of the problems for the foodservice sector is the fragmented nature of its distribution structure,” explains FI Foresight Director Rod Fowler, who is spearheading the FS2 Project.
“Product information passes through several layers and products have multiple identification codes across different distribution systems. At the same time, there’s a growing demand for digital access to product data, as suppliers and operators alike become more and more reliant on online ordering, menu management, inventory control and recipe development systems.”
At the moment there is no complete and independent repository of relevant product data that is accessible to everyone.
The same product often has multiple SKU codes, and with the average operator ordering from at least five different suppliers, this can lead to confusion. There are also differing product category classifications and definitions which make gathering and categorising product data a time-consuming process, as well as introducing the potential for errors.
The increasing demand for nutritional data, from both institutional and commercial sector operators as well as consumers, is a further concern, as currently this information can only be gathered manually from supplier or distributor websites - making it harder for foodservice operators to comply with new regulatory requirements.
The FS2 Project is exploring ways to solve these problems. “We’ve been looking at utilising Artificial Intelligence to facilitate open access to standard product data, and we are now well down the track of coming up with a solution which we believe will work wonders for both suppliers and operators,” Rod affirms.
The goal of the project is to establish an accessible repository for non-commercially sensitive product data, which would be standardised and cross-referenced to eliminate error potential. Product information such as barcodes, SKUs, nutritional data, packaging and shelf life would be gathered from food manufacturers, suppliers and distributors, with foodservice operators able to access, search and download this data as needed.
“We are trialing how AI software combined with digital data sourcing can enable us to undertake the indepth data analysis required to make this project a reality,” Rod explains. “With the ability to quickly manage large amount of data, we now want to take the process a step further and find the best way of sharing that data with foodservice operators. Not only will it make their professional lives easier, but the whole industry will benefit from this increased transparency.”