Big Data

How Big Data Is Effecting Food Industry


As we all know, Big Data is the next `Big Thing`. It seems, as if someone from every major industry was looking at the impact of being able to glean data from multiple data sources, structured and unstructured, from health to agriculture and more.

The food industry is one of the most sophisticated data users, employing some of the most personal information—what we eat—for marketing. When you use a loyalty card at a grocery store, or save a recipe on some websites, or email a recipe to a friend, information is processed so companies can target advertising and make money off of you. Although this sounds striking at first, really did anyone think that Google, a public company that is one of the largest by market value, was providing free email accounts as a public service?

With technology advancing, personal data is getting easier to track. ‘Quantify’ the self which means knowing your precise, undeniable, and scientific numbers through tracking calories, blood sugar, vitamin levels—and total quality of health will be revealed.

For example: GrubHub is the American’s leading online and mobile food ordering company dedicated to connecting hungry diners with local takeout restaurants.Open 24/7, accessing over 30,000 take-out establishments in over 700 cities, and accessible through a quick tap on an app, GrubHub is a company that offers rare insight into the American stomach. While its collection of data will obviously be a boon to any restaurant with a take-out option, its implications also tell us something especially interesting about the culture of food choice.

Through the internet of things, we can manage the dizzying amount of data we produce each day. No time to stop at the store, so what’s in my refrigerator to make dinner tonight? In a simple example, an app could aggregate the data of all food purchases on my credit card, then offer an inventory of my fridge and pantry, then connect with websites to check the types of recipes I download (vegetarian, Greek, dairy-free) to suggest recipes for dinner based on what’s on hand. My dinner information will then be logged in my food tracker.

Food industries are hiring Data Scientists to monitor customer behavior patterns to create more popular new products. Entire consulting businesses are devoted to “Big Data for the food industry.”

Employers want to monitor individuals’ food intake too. According to Politico, employer monitoring of behavioral data (such as what people eat) through wearable technologies like Fitbits is a developing trend. Spurred in part by the Affordable Care Act, which incentivizes companies to offer wellness programs for employees, food monitoring could be exactly the kick start you need to eat better. Or food monitoring could be a federally subsidized road for employers to ‘request’ an unethical amount of information from employees that is more of an ‘offer you can’t refuse.’

There’s more money in technology than ethics!

As we know, curbing a company’s use of data curbs profits also. But the questions are only getting more vexing. Smart food companies will start investing in consumer trust now.

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