The future of the non-alcoholic beverages industry will be shaped by a range of disruptive themes, with artificial intelligence (AI) being one of the themes that will have a significant impact on non-alcoholic beverage companies. 

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are slowly introducing AI. Pilot projects are popular, but few companies have created comprehensive AI strategies. According to GlobalData’s Q4 2020 Emerging Technology Sentiment Analysis survey, AI is perceived as the most disruptive technology by respondents across all industries. Consumer goods companies that implement AI are futureproofing their businesses by making key tasks more efficient and cost-effective. 

Non-alcoholic beverage companies PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are sector leaders, with comprehensive AI strategies covering different areas of the FMCG value chain. Unilever and Proctor & Gamble also have multi-level AI strategies in their consumer-packaged goods and health and beauty subsectors. However, start-ups and smaller companies are also in a good position to use AI. In 2017, start-up HelloAva launched a virtual assistant integrated with an ecommerce platform, creating a digitalised consumer journey. One of the best ways to excel in a tech theme is to acquire a company or start-up. This is beginning to happen in the FMCG sector. L’Oreal has been successful in the AI theme after acquiring AI and augmented reality start-up ModiFace in 2018. Similarly, McCain Foods acquired a minority stake in machine learning company Fiddlehead Technology in February 2021. 

Desktop
Mobile

However, not all companies are equal when it comes to their capabilities and investments in the key themes that matter most to their industry. Understanding how companies are positioned and ranked in the most important themes can be a key leading indicator of their future earnings potential and relative competitive position.  

According to GlobalData’s thematic research report, AI in Consumer Goods, leading adopters include: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever and Procter & Gamble. 

Insights from top ranked companies  

Nestle 

The warehouse incorporates technologies like advanced sorting systems, predictive data, and robots, which could help the company dispatch products to supermarkets and other customers more efficiently. The warehouse is still in the testing phase, but it is expected to futureproof the business for technological innovations. For example, personalised products are becoming more popular. Nestle introduced personalised Quality Street boxes in John Lewis stores. Personalisation at scale is incredibly difficult for supply chains, but digital distribution will make this possible. 

PepsiCo 

PepsiCo is a market leader for AI in FMCG and has a comprehensive AI strategy with different AI initiatives across the consumer goods value chain. GlobalData estimates PepsiCo’s annual ICT spend was $1.8bn in 2020, with $202m on software and $31m on analytics. PepsiCo subsidiary Fritolay uses context-aware computing in distribution manufacturing, producing multiple patents in this area. Quality control has been automated, providing real-time feedback on chip quality based on the sound they produce when hit by a laser. Computer vision is also used to predict the weight of potatoes, and machine learning is used to optimise potato peeling percentage. PepsiCo also piloted vending machine robots, called Snackbots, on a university campus. AI is also used for predictive analytics. AI forecasts inventory management accuracy for two year-old stock-keeping units (SKUs) in a store or warehouse. The company claims that it could increase prediction accuracy from 67% to 72% using AI. PepsiCo has an analytics platform called Pep Worx that advises retail stocks and locations. The company also has an in-house AI platform called Ada, which analyses huge volumes of data to support innovation, design, research, and pricing decisions. AI is used for product development, sales, and marketing, analysing social data to predict, which products will be successful. Different PepsiCo brands have also introduced chatbots, such as Moutain Dew’s chatbot DEWbot, hosted on video streaming platform Twitch. PepsiCo also created a chatbot called Bot-ler, hosted on Facebook, which lets users order drinks from their phones. 

Coca-Cola 

Coca-Cola is a market leader for AI adoption in the consumer goods sector. Global Director of Digital Innovation Greg Chambers stated that “AI is the foundation for everything we do.” Coca-Cola has more than 500 brands in over 200 countries. This generates lots of data, and AI underpins many of its corporate strategies. Coca-Cola uses AI for product innovation and market research. It created self-service drinks machines where customers could mix their own drinks, then used that data to develop the new Cherry Sprite flavour, as this proved most popular. The company also tracks their social media presence using computer vision to identify its drinks, or those of its competitors, in users’ pictures. Targeted ads are developed based on this data. The company introduced a pilot of intelligent vending machines in Japan. Customers can download the Coke On app to access a loyalty scheme, collecting points when visiting a vending machine by connecting their phones. Vending machines are also being launched in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, where customers can preorder drinks using their phones. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the consumer industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on AI in Consumer Goods.   

  • Hangzhou Wahaha Group
  • Ito En
  • Lotte Chilsung
  • Primo Water
  • Nongfu Spring
  • JDE Peet's
  • Kirin Holdings
  • Molson Coors
  • Monster Beverage
  • Britvic

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Thematic Scorecard ranks companies within a sector based on their overall leadership in the 10 themes that matter most to their industry, generating a leading indicator of their future earnings and relative position within key strategic areas.