Carolina Pinto joined GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence team as an associate analyst in September 2022. She is particularly interested in macro themes including ESG, regulation and geopolitics. She is working with the consumer goods team on reports about emerging technologies. 

Just Drinks: What are the most exciting developments in AI for the beverage industry?   

Carolina Pinto: Every area of the beverages industry can benefit from more than one AI technology. Computer vision technology is used to interpret images and videos and can be used for quality assurance in manufacturing and distribution processes. Predictive maintenance can also be beneficial in manufacturing.  

AI sensors continuously monitor the condition of machines and other equipment in factory lines and predict when maintenance is required, helping reduce energy consumption and costs of maintenance.   

Conversational platforms can improve online experiences, customer service, and after-sales support.  

Machine learning (ML) and other decision-making AI capabilities can help companies plan, identify, classify, and forecast. Predictive and behavioural analytics models can be used to curate new product offerings based on emerging customer needs and target marketing campaigns to desired audiences. Predictive analytics can also provide end-to-end supply chain visibility.  

Other ML models can automate and streamline recruitment and onboarding, helping large beverage companies significantly reduce time spent on repetitive tasks.  

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Just Drinks: How can companies in the beverage sector benefit from advances in generative AI in particular?  

Pinto: Generative AI is a relatively new AI technology, and adoption in the beverage sector has so far been limited. Generative AI can help simplify data analytics, speed up research and development, improve marketing and customer service experiences, and automate supply chain management. At the moment, the technology is mostly used for marketing purposes.  

In March 2023, the company released a new AI tool, built by OpenAI and Bain. The ‘Create Real Magic’ platform combines the capabilities of GPT-4 and DALL-E 2 to help artists create marketing campaigns. In April 2023, AB InBev brand Beck’s released the world’s first beer fully AI-generated beer. The company used ChatGPT and MidJourney to curate a recipe, design the packaging, and create a marketing campaign.  

Just Drinks: Which barriers to the implementation of AI remain in the beverage industry, and how could they be overcome?  

Pinto: There are cybersecurity and intellectual property protection concerns associated with open-source generative AI tools that many companies are not addressing. The technology could transform beverage companies’ operations, but a corporate strategy is necessary to mitigate potential risks.  

Additionally, building AI models is expensive and not always necessary in the beverage sector. Instead, companies should regulate the use of open-source models and invest in training natural language processing (NLP) models with company data when necessary. Companies can also outsource AI services to reduce the cost of adoption.  

For example, Coca-Cola also uses third-party AI algorithms to automate tasks across its supply chain. It uses Google‘s TensorFlow to automate its loyalty and reward schemes, Ripcord to consolidate its bottling distribution services, and Keelvar for procurement logistics.  

Just Drinks: What are the barriers to implementation of the metaverse in the beverage industry?    

Pinto: The metaverse is a virtual world where users share experiences and interact in real time within simulated scenarios. It is still largely conceptual but could transform how people work, shop, communicate, and consume content. The immaturity of the technologies central to the metaverse’s success, a lack of clear use cases, and a growing concern about data privacy and personal safety have deflated the hype around the technology in 2023.  

Despite the metaverse concept feeling alien to many consumers and companies, it will add real value to the beverage industry. Large beverage companies have begun exploring use cases for the metaverse. Most current applications focus on digital marketing campaigns inside metaverse platforms like ROBLOX and Decentraland.  

The increased use of AR, VR, and blockchain technologies in manufacturing can also help reduce costs and production times across supply chains. However, the true potential profitability of the metaverse for consumer goods companies lies in the industry’s ability to attach the value of physical products to digital offerings. This reality seems far away. However, when it arrives, the brands most familiar with virtual worlds will be best placed to profit.  

Just Drinks: Which companies are the leading adopters of AI technologies in the beverage sector?  

Pinto: AB InBev, Coca-Cola,  Pepsi-Co and Heineken.