The technology is dubbed the ‘AI Creator System’ and was co-developed by Asahi with local tech developer Cogent Labs.
“Asahi has ownership of the AI Creator System, and we are currently installing graphics and package samples into the system so that it can learn even more about package designs,” Asahi PR Manager Kristin Chiu told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We created the system in order to generate packaging designs objectively so that these would be more creative [and not bound by any individual’s preferences. Along this lines, we believe] the system should exclude personal factors such as preferences, experiences, and stereotypes.”
In the firm’s original statement announcing the AI Creator System, emphasis was also placed on it being able to create ‘unprecedented original package designs’ and going beyond the realms of human ideations to do this.
“The system utilises AI deep learning technology to uniquely extract features that are deemed to be common amongst excellent designs and use this to generate ideas that humans cannot easily conceptualise,” said the firm.
“Food and beverage purchases are sometimes driven by ‘appearance’ in addition to the product contents. Based on this, [we believe] it is possible to stimulate consumers’ purchasing motivations and revitalise the market by creating attractive packaging [which is why] we have developed this AI-based system.”
Along these lines, Asahi also hopes that these AI-generated designs will be able to help products stand out on store shelves based on this uniqueness and originality.
“[The] hope is to create innovative package designs that will not only appeal to consumers, but also make products more recognisable when displayed on store shelves,” added Chiu.
“We also believe that [when implemented], the system could make product development more efficient [in the long run].”
The AI Creator System was first launched in March 2020, and Asahi has been experimenting with it since April 2020. Since then, the firm also launched a virtual reality (VR) system in August/September 2020, which has been linked with the AI Creator System, in an attempt to streamline product development by creating virtual 3D versions of product prototyes.
“The VR system combines 3D model generation and ‘virtual product shelf generation’ [to create a realistic experience] such that when wearing the VR goggles you can feel as though you’re actually standing in front of a refrigerated display and seeing the product, so you get the consumer’s perspective directly,” said Asahi.
According to Chiu, these are still in the trial stage and have not yet been applied on the packaging for any specific Asahi products in the market - but it is only a matter of time.
AI for food waste reduction
In addition to packaging design, Asahi is also looking at using AI to reduce food waste generated from its production chains by having the use of this technology implemented into production plans.
“Asahi believes that we can also contribute to reducing food loss through proper inventory management,” said the firm.
“So to optimise our production plans and inventory management, Asahi soft drinks arm Asahi Soft Drinks Co. Ltd has been working with IBM Japan to test how to utilise AI in test operations for production adjustment.
“The system uses AI to recommend adjustments to the production plan approximately two weeks before actual production, and uses a unique corpus (something like a data bank) built on Asahi’s enormous system data [such as] past business documents, inventory performance and shipping quantities, to teach the AI.”
Basically what the AI will do is take a draft production plan with a planned number of Calpis or WONDA products to be produced and make recommendations after it has been matched against data from the corpus - so it may end up advising a decrease in production for Calpis and increase for WONDA, for example.
That said, the final decision making process will still lie in the hands of human operators, and Asahi will not solely be relying on the AI to make production decisions for now.