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Food bytes: intelligent systems in the food industry

Corney, David
British food journal 2002 v.104 no.10-11 pp. 787-805
algorithms, artificial intelligence, business enterprises, computers, cosmetics, credit, electronics, expert opinion, food industry, food marketing, foods, fraud, fuzzy logic, humans, ingredients, manufacturing, neural networks, packaging, prediction, product development, profits and margins, stock exchange, tobacco, weather forecasting
Computers have transformed the design of everything from cars to coffee cups. Now the food industry faces the same revolution, with intelligent computer models being used in the design, production and marketing of food products. The combined market capitalisation of the world’s biggest food, cosmetics, tobacco, clothing and consumer electronics companies is $2 trillion, forming the world's 500 richest companies. Many of these "fast-moving consumer goods" companies now apply intelligent computer models to the design, production and marketing of their products. Manufacturers aim to develop and produce high volumes of these commodities with minimum costs, maximum consumer appeal, and of course, maximum profits. Products have limited lifetimes following the fashions of the consumer-driven marketplace. With food and drink, little is known about many of the underlying characteristics and processes. Product development and marketing must therefore be rapid, flexible and use raw data alongside existing expert knowledge. Intelligent systems, such as neural networks, fuzzy logic and genetic algorithms, mimic human skills such as the ability to learn from incomplete information, to adapt to changing circumstances, to explain their decisions and to cope with novel situations. These systems are being used to tackle a growing range of problems, from credit card fraud detection and stock market prediction to medical diagnosis and weather forecasting. This paper introduces intelligent systems and highlights their use in all aspects of the food and drink industry, from ingredient selection, through product design and manufacture, to packaging design and marketing.