The use of AI-driven processes to increase efficiency in the F&B market is no longer an anomaly. A host of breweries and distilleries have incorporated the technology to not only develop flavour profiles faster, but also for other functions, including packaging, marketing, as well as to ensure they meet all food-safety regulations.
Although the intention is not to find a replacement for the brewmaster/distiller, it becomes a thrilling learning experiment that equips them with multiple data points that could help them come up with innovative ideas.
Here is a list of companies that have successfully blended technology into their beverages to make a heady cocktail:
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The company claims to be the world’s first to use AI algorithms and machine learning to create innovative beers that adapt to users’ taste preferences. Based on customer feedback, the recipe for their brews goes through multiple iterations to generate various combinations. IntelligentX currently has four different varieties — Black AI, Golden AI, Pale AI, and Amber AI.
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Codes are printed on the cans which direct customers to the Facebook Messenger app. They are then asked to give feedback on the beer they tried by answering a series of 10 questions. The data points gathered are then fed into an AI algorithm to spot trends and inform the overall brewing process. Furthermore, using the feedback, the AI also learns to ask better questions each time to get better outcomes.
Although the insights gathered give brewmasters a window into understanding customer preferences better, the final decision to heed the AI’s recommendations to create a fresh brew rests on them. But what is certain is that without technological intervention, such a large collection of data would not only be difficult to process, but also extremely time-consuming.
Multi-award-winning Swedish whiskey distillery Mackmyra Whisky collaborated with Microsoft and Finnish tech company Fourkind to create the world’s first AI-generated whiskey. Using Microsoft Azure and Machine Learning Studio, Fourkind’s resulting AI solution was fed into Mackmyra’s existing recipes and customer feedback data to create thousands of different recipes.
Following this, the distillery’s key master blender Angela D’Orazio used her experience to review which ingredients would work well together, filtering down the recipes to more desirable combinations. Since this process was repeated multiple times over, the AI algorithm picked up on which combinations worked best and using machine learning, began producing more desirable mixes. Eventually, D’Orazio was able to filter it down to five recipes, finally arriving at recipe number 36 which ultimately became the world’s first AI-generated whiskey that went into production.
This “AI-generated, but human-curated” whiskey has opened the doors to new and innovative combinations that would otherwise have never been discovered. Monikered ‘Intelligens’, the first batch of this blend was launched in September 2019.
The Copenhagen-based brewery started a multimillion-dollar project in 2017 to analyse different flavours in its beer using AI. Unlike IntelligentX which uses customer feedback to improve its brew, Carlsberg has accomplished this by developing a taste-sensing platform that helps identify the differential elements of the flavours.
Under the ongoing Beer Fingerprinting Project, 1000 different beer samples are created each day. With the help of advanced sensors, the flavour fingerprint of each sample is determined. Following this, different yeasts are analysed to map the flavours and help make a distinction between them. Thus, the data collected by this AI-powered system could potentially be used to develop new varieties of brews.
Launched in collaboration with Microsoft, Aarhus University and the Technical University of Denmark, the project marked a shift from conventional practices that did not involve any technology.
The brewers of Budweiser and Corona had also jumped on the AI bandwagon to shake up its business. The company had invested in a slew of initiatives to improve how it brews beer. The Beer Garage is one such initiative. Sitting at the interjection of a startup ecosystem and the AB InBev business, it focuses on developing technology-driven solutions. ZX Ventures – another offshoot of its larger business – was launched in 2015 with the objective of creating new products that address consumer needs.
Anchored around these enterprises, AB InBev is using machine learning capabilities to stay ahead of the curve in three broad areas:
- Improving quality and flavour
- Building better relationships with customers
- Allowing tech-intervention in choosing marketing and advertising content
Sugar Creek Brewing
This maker of Belgian-inspired ales has begun integrating AI and IoT into its brewing process to improve both the quality of the beer, as well as its manufacturing process. It started when a significant problem came to light at the packaging stage.
When the beer was loaded into bottles, it was observed that the level at which it was filled was inconsistent. Another problem was the excessive foaming inside the bottles. This spiked the oxygen levels in the beer, which is known to ruin the flavour and reduce the beer’s shelf life.
After partnering with IBM, the tech giant installed a camera at SCB’s warehouse, which took pictures of the beer as it crossed the bottle line. When combined with other data collected during the packaging operations, the team of engineers at IBM uploaded it to the Cloud. At this point, brewers at SCB also provided specific criteria which they found to be useful and this was then left with Watson algorithms to interpret the large amount of data quickly and solve the problem.
From losing more than $30,000 a month in beer spillage, SCB found a solution by building AI and IoT into its brewing processes.