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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - July 8th, 2022

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


Our focus returns to food AI this week as we delve into new meatless options on Burger King’s menu and expanding automation applications in food production and delivery.


Burger King Chile Expands Meatless Menu

We begin with a story about Burger King’s recent partnership with the alternative meat company TheNotCompany (NotCo). According to the article “Burger King Adds NotCo’s high-tech vegan chicken to menu in Chile,” the partnership adds new meatless chicken items to Burger King Chile’s menu offerings.

“[NotCo] creates its products, which include meat and milk analogues, with the help of ‘Giuseppe,’ an artificial intelligence-powered discovery platform that draws from a database of 300,000 plant ingredients to accurately recreate animal foods from plants on a molecular level,” writes VegNews contributor Anna Starstinetskaya. “This plant-based chicken line expands on NotCo’s existing partnership with Burger King in the region which put a plant-based whopper on the menu in 2020.”

This move may not seem somewhat common on the surface; after all, most fast food companies are offering meatless alternatives. Yet this partnership marks just one of a series of similar moves by Burger King international. In the U.S., they recently expanded their partnership with Beyond Meat, creators of the Impossible Whopper. And in London, their partnership with The Vegetarian Butcher has allowed them to offer over twenty-five successful meatless options at numerous locations. The goal, as stated in the article, is to achieve 50% meatless menus worldwide by 2030.

While Burger King is at the forefront of meatless fast food, it isn't the only chain aggressively pursuing meatless alternatives. KFC recently debuted plant-based "chicken" nuggets, Taco Bell tested plant-based meat made from peas and chickpeas, and McDonald's unveiled the McPlant. NotCo, while still a relative unknown, is surprisingly at the forefront of many of these partnerships.

“The Chilean startup is also in the midst of an expansion to the US, where NotMilk made its retail debut through a Whole Foods Market partnership in 2020,” continues Starstinetskaya. “On the foodservice side, in May, Shake Shack announced that it is working with NotCo on its first plant-based milkshakes and custards.”

Meatless alternatives saved over 700K cattle in 2021. They’re cheaper, healthier (both for humans and the planet), and more sustainable than actual meat. And people seem to enjoy them – they taste like meat, after all. It’s a sure bet that the meatless transition will only continue in the years to come. Whichever companies create the cheapest, healthiest, most sustainable products are positioned to come out on top.

Brands Continuing to Automate Food Production, Delivery

While AI-enabled the meatless revolution in fast food, it’s also helping to give brands a logistical edge. According to the article “Restaurant Roundup: Brands Automate Food Production, Delivery,” nearly every major chain on the market is using AI to help with tasks such as food production and delivery.

Panda express recently implemented a robot chef called the Panda Auto Wok (PAW) at 120 locations, with 240 more planned before 2023. PAW allows a human chef to assemble ingredients into a wok powered by a robot arm programmed to cook food to perfection. Other brands at the earlier stages of robot cooks are in the test and learn phase: they’re testing new applications in smaller markets, with plans to roll out successful methods in phases as they continue to prove successful.

Autonomous delivery vehicles are also making big strides. DoorDash, the United States’ leading restaurant aggregator, filed a patent application in late June for an “automated vehicle for autonomous last-mile deliveries.” Grubhub announced its partnership with Cartken, a self-driving robotics company, the same month for college campus deliveries. And Uber Eats, the second leading restaurant aggregator, launched two robotic delivery pilots in Los Angeles in May.

Meatless alternatives, robot cooks, and autonomous deliveries only scratch the surface of how AI is being utilized to transform fast food. Everywhere we look, with nearly every major fast-food brand, new AI partnerships and applications are popping up. It’s a data-collecting AI war zone out there in fast food land. Be sure to have your popcorn ready.

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