Speed. Five letters packed into one syllable. The word itself is a model of efficiency. 

Product developers are no strangers to the concept of speed. Iterative development, failing fast, failing forward… these are just a few worn phrases used to describe the velocity of innovation that floods today’s product development process. And things are about to get a lot faster.

While attending the 2019 IRI Growth Summit in Denver, I learned that IRI is making artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning enhancements to its suite of data and analytic tools.

“Companies in our ecosystem are looking at data and technology as the next enabler of competitive advantage — in creating speed, consumer intimacy and process efficiency,” said Andrew Appel, president and chief executive officer of IRI. “Every major company in our industry is increasing their investment in the space, knowing that mastering the technology of tomorrow is one of the most important levers of competitive advantage.”

Unleashing AI and machine learning to comb through massive data sets positions product development on the verge of revolution. Collected data, once thought too dense and sprawling to offer reliable guidance, can now be organized by sophisticated algorithms. Product developers will be able to reduce innovative sessions to focused market-ready concepts at unprecedented rates. Furthermore, developing products shaped by AI and machine learning, will provide companies with a greater sense of confidence as they go to market.

Yet, new ideas need to come from somewhere, and for now, that’s still the human mind — specifically the minds of startup entrepreneurs.

Startup communities and organizations are exploding across the food and beverage landscape. Some food companies have partnered with startup organizations to accelerate and innovation. In March, Mondelēz International announced its investment in Uplift Food, a US-based early-stage startup focusing on prebiotic functional foods. The move is the first for SnackFutures, Mondelēz’s innovation and venture hub aimed at unlocking growth opportunities. Mondelēz furthered its commitment to the startup world by signing a partnership with The Hatchery Chicago, a non-profit food business incubator.

In early March, Springboard, a platform launched by Kraft Heinz in 2016 to accelerate growth of disruptive brands, announced its second Incubator Program class. Meanwhile, Chobani also announced the companies in its Spring 2019 class.

The most recent startup-focused project is the SEEDS of CHANGE Accelerator from Mars. Inc. The organization will help early stage food-focused companies fast-track growth and build a healthier and more sustainable future. The SEEDS of CHANGE Accelerator, will select six US and four Australian participants in the following areas: startup food brands, innovative experiential offerings, new business models, and emerging technology.

Speed plus increased innovation is set to transform the food and beverage industry in significant and unpredictable directions. Product development is becoming amplified and accelerated. Failure rates may swell, but in their wake, we may discover the lasting brands of the future.