How Spoon Guru uses AI to optimise search

In the world of personalised nutrition​, AI can play a key role. This is particularly true for Spoon Guru, which uses AI to boost the accuracy of retailers’ search functions in order to enhance the nutritional benefits of what they suggest.

Most consumers have unique health needs and the search engine aims to take this into account. “There’s no such thing as a universally healthy diet,” Spoon Guru co-founder Markus Stripf told us at March’s Positive Nutrition event.

How can AI improve search function?

Spoon Guru’s business model focuses on boosting the search function of food businesses such as Tesco, enabling consumers to find the foods they want in order to target specific nutritional needs that would be beyond an ordinary search function.

AI and retail

AI is changing retail in a number of ways​. It could, suggested University of Surrey professor of marketing Sabine Benoit, introduce scan-as-you-shop allergy advice, in-store recipe inspiration and smart checkouts that can detect which product is in them.

The company’s product discovery “helps organisations understand more about what they sell and present to the consumer in a more manageable fashion. That’s useful for business because there’s an opportunity to present more relevant information to a client,” Alex Rutter, non-executive board member and strategic advisor to Spoon Guru, told FoodNavigator.

Nutrition is central Spoon Guru’s goals. “Primarily it’s about human and food health. A vast number of the population are either malnourished or undernourished or obese,” Rutter told us.

“And I think nutrition has become far more prevalent in the younger generation, which is great. But it’s also about how you make that information accessible to people across different mediums. So people are interested in understanding more about their bodies, and they’ll find more about their nutrition.”


The personalisation potential of AI is significant. Image Source: Getty Images/akinbostanci

Functions such as ‘now and next’ dietary insights, for example, help the individual discover their next course of action in regards to what nutritional plan to follow.

“I think it’s got a really strong message as to how you can take information that is readily available to most people every day, but turn it into something consumable that people can better their lives or businesses can better their customer experience with.”

AI is at the heart of this. “If you think about any transformational mechanisation of anything, it’s always about how do you take vast quantities of information and make it consumable and informative to people,” said Rutter, who also works as Google’s EMEA managing director for artificial intelligence.

Spoon Guru’s search allows it to present a consumer or retailer with information that is, Rutter told us, more detailed and more comprehensive than they would otherwise have.

AI and digital tracing

A third of all food produced for humans is food waste, according to the World Food Programme (WFP)​. AI can streamline​ supplier order entry, therefore cutting down significantly on food waste.

When searching for vegan products, for example, they would normally be quite restricted. However, the results can be expanded through Spoon Guru. “Understanding what products are truly vegan and having the nutrition information to back it up if you’re a grocer can significantly restrict the market of product catalogue that you present to somebody in their shopping journey.

“So having a higher quality of information enables two things: your consumer to make a more informed decision as to what they wish to buy from you if they’re following a particular lifestyle, (and) also it can enable an organisation to present more of its catalogue, therefore it’s got a greater chance of increased revenues.”

They are now, according to Rutter, looking into how they embed conversation into the search using regenerative AI.

How does Spoon Guru ground its recommendations?

AI must be grounded in something, a database with the information it needs to make reliable recommendations. 

“There are two crucial things in any AI capability,” Rutter told us. “It’s about the grounding: so what information source it’s grounding that decision in. Spoon Guru have a very significant nutritional database which is what grounds all of their decisions. They’re very comfortable with what they recommend to clients being nutritionally accurate.”

Secondly, Spoon Guru’s nutritional information is verified by nutritional scientists, who work as part of the company.

“So it’s, you know, it’s grounded in what we call grounded in factuality and that factuality is that new is that Spoon Guru nutritional database that they have kept maintained and updated over a number of years.”

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