For the one in 10 Americans who live with food allergies, only constant vigilance keeps mealtime safe. Food shopping at retail or online can be an exhaustive effort to filter out risky products every time, because even familiar products may change their ingredients. Shoppers know this and struggle, which is why many choose very restrictive (and, may I say, sometimes boring) diets to avoid the hassle.
Today’s grocery retailers know they can differentiate
from their competitors if they focus on helping consumers
eat healthier and smarter. Retail and corporate dietitians
are making a difference in this regard through insights,
programs and recommendations for consumers.
But the big question is: How can we expand this
depth of knowledge and advice to reach the 32 million
consumers that shop in our U.S. grocery stores each day?
The answer lies in using technology, a part of which exists
for the almost 50 million adults who now have access to a
smart speaker, or artificial-intelligence device, including
Alexa, Google Home and Sonos. Also, even more impact
would occur if retailers had a robust, accurate AI tool
with machine learning capabilities that track and update
product and recipe information. Such a tool used in-
store and online, designed alongside nutritionists and
allergists, could enable personalized, tailored health
and lifestyle recommendations based on each shopper’s
condition, preferences and behavior—and lead to a better
quality of life.
Spoon Guru, a London-based technology firm,
conducted a study and randomly sampled 2,000 food
products from their database of 96,141 to validate
whether machine learning could perform as accurately
as qualified health professionals in recommending foods
suitable for people with a nut allergy. (Full disclosure:
While I did not participate in the research study, Spoon
Guru is a sponsor of Retail Dietitians Business Alliance,
and I work with them on other projects).
The results of the study convincingly proved AI could
be used in conjunction with dietitians, nutritionists
and healthcare professionals to help patients with nut
allergies to find allergy-safe products.
The Spoon Guru Machine Learning model (SGML) was
independently compared against a benchmark of findings
from five registered dietitians and three clinical allergists.
There were no food labels to identify each item; instead,
health professionals saw only a spreadsheet of product
names, ingredients lists and all on-pack statements. In
the study, SGML was the most precise and made the
fewest errors compared to healthcare professionals. Its
measures were significantly better than six out of the
eight healthcare professionals, and considerably better
than the second most accurate healthcare professional.
Specifically, SGML was 99.8% precise with 15 errors,
while practitioners were 90.5% precise on average with
After reviewing the research, Caroline Bovey, honorary
chairman of the British Dietetic Association, said the
study “demonstrates the supportive role that evolving
technologies like AI can have on healthcare.”
Dietitians understand that such tools streamline their
processes by allowing more time for dietary counseling,
negotiating patient goals for dietary and lifestyle change,
and creating tailored solutions for specific patient needs.
As evidenced in the study, the time has come for
grocers and retail dietitians to embrace proven AI tools
that can be integrated into retailer apps to help keep
people safer and imprint their store’s wellness image. It’s
time to use AI for a lot more than just ordering snacks.
AI Emerges as a
New Tool for Fighting
Grocers and RDs have a new way to imprint a store’s wellness
image and help keep shoppers safer. By Phil Lempert
Phil Lempert, also known as
the Supermarket Guru, is a
leading food marketing and
consumer trends analyst for
the grocery and retail sectors.
The latest news, analysis and trends from an industry expert