How Tastewise uses artificial intelligence to bridge the gap between consumers and food trends

Tastewise CEO and co-founder Alon Chen looked around the crowded ballroom at Future Food-Tech’s San Francisco conference this spring.

The room was full of companies showing off new advances in food tech. There were different variations of plant-based meats and sauces. Ingredients made from unconventional plants, grains and legumes. Technology to improve and enhance cell-based meat growth. All sorts of products made through fermentation. He spoke matter-of-factly.

“If you look around us, nine out of 10 of the presenters are going to fail, which is a shame, right?” he said.

Chen said that startup failure has nothing to do with a company’s idea or how much the product is needed. It has more to do with the way those products are executed, what attributes they highlight, and how well they fit what consumers are looking for at the moment.

Tastewise’s goal is to turn that trend upside down.

“We’re trying to get from a 90% failure rate to a 100% success rate,” he said.

The Israel-based company has a unique value proposition, and Chen says it has succeeded in work with food businesses of all sizes. Basically, Tastewise has a sophisticated artificial intelligence system that sifts through massive amounts of data online — the company estimates it accesses more than 22 billion social media interactions, more than 5 million home recipes and more than 1 million restaurant menus — to find what’s trending right now. And its co-founders know exactly where to look and how to mine that data. Chen is a former Google executive, and Chief Technical Officer Eyal Gaon has worked with several Israel-based tech companies. 

The company, which got its start in 2017, works with an array of food makers including Nestlé, PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz, Campbell Soup and Eat Just. It’s quickly tripled its revenues, the company said in a statement. In March, it received a $17 million Series A investment, led by Disruptive AI. The company, with total lifetime funding of $21.6 million, has plans to expand its coverage to help capture the up and coming trends in new markets including Canada, Germany, France, Australia and India.

“If you do a really large survey, you’ll usually be talking to like 200 people. We observe 10 million consumers every single moment, and what we basically allow you to see actually is way more statistically significant and meaningful in real time.”

Alon Chen

Co-founder and CEO, Tastewise

Chen said the data that Tastewise can provide is much more significant and useful to food companies than traditional information. Historically, food companies relied on point-of-sale data — which takes some time to compile and only can record what a consumer buys, but provides no information about the decision-making process or the reasons behind a purchase. And consumer polls — another traditional source of information — are full of inaccuracies, Chen said. Consumers are not always truthful about the products they are looking for and why, or what they are hoping for in the future.

“We basically look at behavior and we analyze that,” Chen said. “And we look at a much higher scale. In a survey, if you do a really large survey, you’ll usually be talking to like 200 people. We observe 10 million consumers every single moment, and what we basically allow you to see actually is way more statistically significant and meaningful in real time.”

Pandemic proven

In general, the COVID-19 pandemic was good for the food business. CPG manufacturers reaped the benefits as restaurants, offices and schools closed their doors and consumers returned to cooking and eating at home.

But it was especially good for Tastewise, Chen said.

“There’d been so much change with what consumers want, right?” Chen said. “That was never changing so fast until COVID.” 

Tastewise was able to prove just how valuable its insights were as the world — and consumer behavior — literally changed overnight. For example, Chen said, before the pandemic shut everything down, there was huge emphasis on sustainability through making reforms to food packaging and related items, like disposable plastic straws. Quickly though, consumers became more interested in personal safety, so more packaging — like individual snack bags — was in demand, and concern about straws was forgotten.

Most changes in consumer sentiment and behavior are not so quick and dramatic, but what people want from their products is ever-changing, Chen said. A lot of this is because of the pace of modern digital media. All it takes for an idea to catch fire is a handful of the right kind of influencer videos or well-timed tweets.

A group of people who work for Tastewise pose in an office.

The Tastewise team.

Courtesy of Tastewise


“If you don’t understand the consumer, and you start developing a product, and then you don’t check if your hypotheses or assumptions are still valid 12 months later, you’ll be launching a product that is not necessary,” Chen said. “And that’s what we do. We basically help you monitor the consumer needs and demand to be able to launch with confidence.”