Fast Forward: Indian foodtech in 2024 and beyond
There’s lot cooking in the foodtech segment – from AI solutions to automated kitchens to robot chefs and drone-delivery, the customer is going to be spoilt for choice.
Evolving customer expectations have made the F&B space one of the most exciting sectors in India. Within F&B, food service, delivery and management are seeing rapid changes that are heavily affected by technology and have given birth to “Foodtech” which is growing massively thanks to smartphone penetration and easy/cheap internet access, a rising youth population, higher disposable incomes and a proliferation of F&B options.
Over the last few years, foodtech has emerged one of the most dynamic segments in India with dozens of small, medium and large players including prominent cab aggregators wanting to carve out a piece of the action.
RedSeer Consulting estimates the Indian foodtech industry is on track to clock USD 4 billion by 2020.
Here’s what I believe the next few years hold out for the Indian foodtech space.
AI will change the face of the (foodtech) industry
Smartphone usage has risen phenomenally and digital food discovery/delivery platforms have gained high traction. Foodtech companies will turn to advanced technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence) to capitalise on this momentum.
AI will help businesses streamline their operations, forecast demand, reduce production costs and minimise food wastage. On the customer service front, AI bots, acting without any human assistance of course, will handle large volumes of customer queries, take orders and register customer feedback.
Moreover, AI-based solutions will provide crucial insights into customer choices and preferences, thereby enabling restaurants to curate personalised menus, dishes and deals.
In the coming years, we might even see smart AI assistants working beside human chefs to bring innovation into cooking – be it developing off-beat recipes or creating entirely new cuisine categories or preparing a meal that is individually cooked or personalised to a customer.
Virtual kitchens will continue to grow
One of the major trends redefining the foodtech industry in India is the concept of virtual or cloud kitchens – commercial kitchens that only take online orders and typically don’t offer dine-in. Such innovations are driven by an increasing consumer desire for home-made or restaurant-quality fresh food that is tasty and healthy.
These ‘ghost restaurants’ do not have any storefront and usually tie up with food aggregators. While some of the larger food players have started using cloud kitchens, the adoption has been fairly slow but is poised to pick up. Over the next few years, online-only kitchens could offer tough competition to full-service restaurants by offering a home-dining experience to consumers who demand both convenience and quality.
Increased mechanisation in food preparation
While the idea of robotic kitchens maybe some time away, automation is making its way into the area of food preparation. A few restaurants have already introduced robot chefs that lend a helping hand to human cooks.
UK-based robotics company, Moley, has already built a full-stack automated kitchen that can learn recipes, cook and even clean up after cooking. Another Boston-based restaurant called Spyce features a robotic kitchen that can cook complex wholesome food.
Advances in AI and ML might pave the way for large-scale adoption of robot chefs, helping restaurants lower their labour costs, reduce customer wait-time and bring out new, exciting dishes.
This possibility makes us wonder, what will happen to human staff? Technological advancements will mean chefs and other kitchen staff develop the skills to work alongside robots.
Automated food delivery
According to a 2018 report by Goldman Sachs, the Indian food delivery market alone is likely to grow seven-fold in seven years – from USD 1 billion in 2018 to USD 7 billion by 2025. The report further projects that the online food market in the country can cross 100 million orders per month in FY23.
At present, the food aggregator industry relies heavily on (human) delivery executives. However, in the next five years, the service delivery category could include drone models and autonomous vehicles. Food delivery via drones is, in fact, no longer a novel concept. Several companies are testing its feasibility and have introduced this in select regions.
In June,reportedly received permission from the FAA to test drone delivery in San Diego, California. The initial phase of the test involved Uber Eats’ partner McDonald’s, and the company is eyeing the widespread implementation of this service. Domino’s Pizza is also testing self-driving delivery vehicles in Houston, which gives us a glimpse of food delivery of the future.
Foodtech draws on retail industry trends
As the foodtech market continues to grow, it draws on synergies with other industries such as retail.
The line between restaurants and food retailers has blurred further with technology becoming the initial touch point for customers and customer experience becoming as important as the product/service.
Today, consumers find freshly prepared ready-to-eat food options at multiple outlets, including convenience stores, dine-in restaurants, eateries, pharma and grocery stores. With the rising demand for healthy, gourmet food, prominent retailers have, in fact, already dipped their feet in food delivery.
With health and wellness continue to attract growing attention from consumers, technology-led innovations, the growing ability/willingness to spend and invest in new food experiences, the foodtech industry is positioned to take the entire F&B sector by storm.
The next five years will present unbridled opportunities, and it will be exciting to see how companies can position themselves to creatively and efficiently satisfy consumers’ tastes and ensure a greater share of spends.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)