At first glance, it doesn't seem nearly as cool as virtual reality video games, yet augmented reality (AR) is starting to revolutionize the way the food industry operates, by giving companies the ability to train employees and engage with consumers through tech platforms that are more immersive than ever before.
AR for Optimizing Food Manufacturing
Augmented reality can deliver an exciting, immersive training experience for new employees -- from operating equipment on assembly lines to equipment maintenance. Early adopters of AR-based employee training have seen an 80% retention rate one year after training, a huge jump from the estimated 20% retention rate from traditional methods as staff is trained faster and better.
- Assembly Lines, Food Processing, Equipment Maintenance
Augmented reality can be implemented into almost any step of food manufacturing operations. Employees on the assembly lines, for example, can walk through a detailed step-by-step breakdown of day-to-day tasks, employees can be given checklists to inspect manufacturing equipment, and employees can follow along typical food processing procedures to reduce recalls.
- Ingredient Storage & Preparation
Food manufacturers handle a large array of different ingredients that all need to be handled differently to maintain their quality. With AR technology, workers can get familiar with the best practices to handling ingredients including how to store them, when they expire, and how to package them properly.
- Warehouse Fulfillment & Shipping
For food and beverage companies, augmented reality can help reduce the potential for spoilage by allowing employees to virtually 'walk the aisles' of stored finished product and 'see' what's there, instead of just looking at it through numbers on a computer screen. This interactive methodology already shows promise for improving employees' abilities to catch issues and 'see' opportunities more immediately.
AR for Enhancing eCommerce Experiences
Within recent years, eCommerce has experienced considerable growth, becoming one of the main ways in which consumers shop. However, the ever-present challenge of eCommerce is the inability to physically experience the products firsthand. While traditional in-store shopping allows for the “touch and feel” experience that instills buying confidence in customers, eCommerce lacks this physical aspect, creating uncertainty that ultimately deters them from committing to a purchase.
This becomes a concern of the past with the use of AR. Augmented reality enhances eCommerce experiences by creating a virtual space where customers can better visualize your products. Online shoppers are able to interact with, and explore products in real-time, essentially bringing the in-store shopping experience straight to their phones.
Companies in the food and beverage industry can leverage AR in their eCommerce in the following ways:
- A breakdown of the food product’s nutritional information;
- A visualization of product ingredients;
- A brand story detailing where and how ingredients are sourced;
- An educational course on how to prepare or use a product.
AR for Marketing Food Brands
Going beyond the physical world, augmented reality has created endless opportunities for brands to show their food products in exciting new ways. Some large CPG brands have already invested in the technology, but they have only scratched the surface:
- Treasury Wine Estates’ 19 Crimes brings its labels of pictured convicts to life with AR,
- Nestle created an AR game in collaboration for the movie “Rio” that could be scanned on the packaging of its products, and
- Kraft had shoppers use AR to show them all the recipes they could make with different Kraft products.
Headsets are the most common device to bring AR experiences to consumers. Both Apple and Google recently debuted augmented reality platforms (ARKit and ARCore, respectively), Facebook keeps investing in its Oculus headset, and Amazon has plans to add AR shopping features to its platform. These investments into AR have allowed the price of headsets to decrease, which in turn has opened the door for smaller, innovative companies and to experiment with the technology for themselves.
With the growing global AR market currently standing at $3.5 billion, early adopters will receive the greatest ROI with this exciting technology. Human resources, customer experiences, and food products are the three areas where AR has seen the most development. As the market continues to grow, these areas are projected to expand with it.
Big Picture Data
In the last two years, automation installations topped the list for developments in operational improvements among food manufacturers, according to 2019 Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing.