There is currently a growing demand from customers for customization in various aspects of the food and beverage industry. Not only the product or service offered, but also the customer experience needs to be unique and feel personal.
Personalized customer experience has always been important in the luxury world and this trend is now spreading to more common products as well. Often linked to craftsmanship, personalization means that a customer can feel the satisfaction of having a tailor-made product or service. Luxury brands such as Harley Davidson, Louis Vuitton and Prada have embraced customization to offer unique pieces to their customers, for example, leather goods that are embossed according to their customers' preferences.
But even service-based industries such as hospitality, which for years has based its differentiators on creating a service that is almost flawless, have now changed direction: personalizing the customer experience to make them feel unique has become today's luxury. In an era where digitally-savvy consumers are consuming contents and services more and more tailored to their preferences and needs, how can personalization be delivered in the food and beverage industry?
Technology clearly helps accelerate the personalization process, offering various new tools to food and beverage industry's professionals: from beer and wine, which can be custom-made based on the customer's DNA, to 3D-printed meat and coffee with high-quality images - we looked at five trends that are slowly but surely changing the face of the food and beverage industry.
3D printed food
Cutting-edge 3D food printers are already in use in various commercial establishments such as bakeries and kitchens. This technology allows professionals including pastry chefs to create tailor-made complicated designs much easier. One such example is NovaMeat's bio-printer that replicates the texture of meat with plant-based ingredients in about thirty minutes.
He's hoping his latest invention, a bio-printer modeled on 3D printers that can replicate the fibrous texture of a steak with plant-based ingredients.
This revolutionary technology has been designed with sustainability in mind to respond to the need for better resources management and lowering global carbon footprint associated with livestock.
DNA-based beer and wine
Customization can be much more elaborate than selecting your own design to beautify your coffee. D.N. ALE is a highly personalized service offered by the British brewery Meantime Brewing and the genetic testing company 23andMe.
The exclusive service consists of first analyzing the customer's DNA by using a sample of their saliva and then using this result to identify their unique preferences and produce customized beers matching their flavor profile. The price tag for this exclusive service is around 30,000 euros for 1,200 liters of beer, and for an additional cost it is also possible to customize the beer labels or to have a glass moulded to fit your hand. The results of a DNA test can also determine which types of wine are best for every customer.
Based on that, the California-based start-up Vinome offers a wine subscription service of curated wines, delivered to their customers. The customization process is further enhanced by the customers' detailed feedback every time they try a new type of wine.
France-based start-up Tellspec has created a handheld scanner helping consumers to identify allergens, nutrients and ingredients in their food. The scanner uses a mobile app connected to an artificial intelligence tool to see the results and provide a breakdown of amounts of sugar, acidity levels and vitamins present in fruits, for example, as well as potential allergens warnings.
Personalized service and innovation in mixology
Drinking is an experience that involves not just the drink, but also the people and the environment. Mixologists and bartenders can offer a personalized experience and drinks to their customers. For example, a customer can ask the mixologist to prepare a cocktail for them based on information which could include their favorite spirits, their current mood or the time of the day.
F&B managers should look for various attributes for an ideal bartender such as hospitality, attention to detail, time management and preparation skills, but also creativity and the ability to entertain. Passionate bartenders, each one with their own unique story, can create a memorable, personalized experience for customers.
Technological development has brought various innovations in mixology as well, such as a cocktail glass that gives you the ability to customize your drink's flavor using an application. Under the leadership of Nimesha Ranasinghe, researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed the "Vocktail" (virtual cocktail), a device that is able to give you the sense of drinking various flavored beverages.
Coffee customized with high-quality images
The Ripple Maker is an innovative solution that can customize coffee with high-quality images in a few seconds. Ripples are made of tiny coffee bean drops that keep the natural quality and flavor of the coffee intact. The platform includes a machine, a website and a mobile application.
The machine is preloaded with a library of ripples categorized into themes including greetings, smart quotes, coffee humor and many more. Coffee shop owners can customize the themes and also create their own ripples through the website, based on their customers' preferences. There is an option for customers to connect via Facebook and this gives the opportunity for a completely personalized ripple on their coffee which they can even create by themselves using the application.
The benefits for F&B professionals
But what is the rationale for using these processes from the perspective of F&B professionals? The answer is simple. Beyond the additional price they may charge, there is also a marketing interest, especially in a company that wants to find its signature and looking for differentiation.