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Here’s how some shoppers are using artificial intelligence to halve the cost of their groceries


Christchurch resident Kate Singleton says the way she shops has changed.

Supplied

Christchurch resident Kate Singleton says the way she shops has changed.

Christchurch resident Kate Singleton​ has been using AI technology to change the way she shops, without even realising it.

She has started using Christchurch business Menu Aid, an online recipe subscription service that sends customers meal ideas, and a shopping list of ingredients, for $4 a week.

Singleton​ said the app has completely changed the way her family cooked but she had no idea it was powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

“It also helps avoid food wastage, and cuts down on the cost of my weekly shop,” Singleton​ said.

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Singleton​ said a major problem with many of the meal delivery services was that the spices and ingredients used for one meal could then sit untouched at the back of the pantry.

Menu Aid uses its AI to track what ingredients a customer should have in their pantry, and suggests meals that make the most of what is on offer.

Melody Tia-Peni​ used to spend over $400 on a weekly shop for her household of two teenagers and two grandchildren.

But Menu Aid had brought that down to between $200 to $250 a week. Much of the savings come from avoiding food wastage, she said.

“Every individual, and every family’s pallet is different. So we have to create a recommendation engine that can very quickly adapt to a range of tastes. To do that we have built an AI which is getting smarter and smarter,” Menu Aid founder Toby Skilton​ said.

MenuAid co-founders Elise Hilliam and Toby Skilton have created a meal subscription service powered by AI technology.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

MenuAid co-founders Elise Hilliam and Toby Skilton have created a meal subscription service powered by AI technology.

When users sign up to Menu Aid the system records a range of food preferences to kick-start the recommendation engine.

As users cook, and review recipes, the system collects data to create more accurate recommendations.

“It records things like whether the person prefers quick and easy meals over longer cook times, whether they prefer pork or chicken. We also have a personal clicking history of the meals they were most interested in. We put this data together and create an in-depth profile of a user’s preferences.”

The data is not only used to recommend recipes, but also to help with the act of shopping.

When a user has finalised their recipes for the week they get a shopping list which they can order online through Countdown delivery, or shop for themselves.

The Menu Aid system also collects information about the way a user shops, whether they prefer health food products, or cheaper brands, or a particular produce or protein, and can then recommend recipes based on this information.

“The system does a first pass of the recommendations, but the user can always change things. The cool thing is if a user does change, then the system remembers that and takes the preference on board for next time.

“It is like having an AI personal shopping assistant,” he said.

“The cost of living at the moment is insane, everyone has been feeling it. It has been really amazing to hear the stories from our customers and to know we are making a difference in their lives,” he said.



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