Is the consumer sector seeing the beginnings of an AI investment boom? - focus - Just Drinks
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Is the consumer sector seeing the beginnings of an AI investment boom? – focus

10 Jun 2021

M&A and investment linked to Artificial Intelligence has been buoyant in recent years, as have job hirings and patent filings. But is the consumer sector keeping up?

Is the consumer sector seeing the beginnings of an AI investment boom? – focus

The consumer industry is seeing an increase in artificial intelligence (AI) investment across several key metrics, according to an analysis of GlobalData data.

AI is gaining an increasing presence across multiple sectors, with top companies completing more AI deals, hiring for more AI roles and mentioning it more frequently in company reports at the start of 2021. GlobalData’s thematic approach to sector activity seeks to group key company information on hiring, deals, patents and more by topic to see which companies are best placed to weather the disruptions coming to their industries.

These themes, which include AI, are best thought of as “any issue that keeps a CEO awake at night”. By tracking them, it becomes possible to ascertain which companies are leading the way on specific issues and which are dragging their heels.

According to this method, P&G, Unilever, Estee Lauder are classed as dominant players in AI in the sector, with an additional 13 companies classified as leaders. No companies are considered to be vulnerable due to a lack of investment in AI.

One area where there has been some decrease in AI investment among consumer companies is in the number of deals. GlobalData show that there were 23 AI deals in consumer in the first quarter of 2019. By the first quarter of 2021, that number was 14.

Hiring patterns within the consumer sector as a whole are pointing towards an increase in the level of attention being shown to AI-related roles. There was a monthly average of 821 actively advertised-for open AI roles within the industry in April this year, up from a monthly average of 820 in December 2020.

It is also apparent from an analysis of keyword mentions in financial filings that AI is occupying the minds of consumer companies to a lesser extent.

There have been 110 mentions of AI across the filings of the biggest consumer companies so far in 2021, equating to 2.5% of all tech theme mentions. This figure represents a decrease compared to 2016, when AI represented 9.6% of the tech theme mentions in company filings.

AI is increasingly fueling innovation in the consumer sector, particularly in the past six years. There were, on average, 92 consumer patents related to AI granted each year from 2000 to 2014. That figure has risen to an average of 555 patents since then, reaching 1,114 in 2020.

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