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EXCLUSIVE: How AI Can Transform and Elevate Cheese Sales

PG talks with Preferabli co-founder/ CEO about new discovery and recommendation software for cheese
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
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Preferabi's software can help shoppers discover cheese varieties that suit that suit their palates and preferences.

What do you get when you combine one of the most personal human features and the latest in AI and machine learning? For consumers and retailers, the answer may be the ultimate appreciation of food and drinks that are popular but sometimes complicated and hence difficult to choose. 

Preferabli an AI-driven, B2BC product discovery and recommendation software provider that changed the way that people find and enjoy wines and spirits, is expanding its capabilities to include cheese. Like wine and spirits, cheese is available in a wide range of styles and accompanying complexities and flavors. Even in food-centric France, onetime President Charles de Gaulle once famously declared, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” That’s just France at one point in history – today, there are more than 1,000 different cheeses around the world.

[RELATED: Progressive Grocer’s 91st Annual Report - How Grocers Are Connecting the Dots]

Preferabli’s proprietary database includes up to 800 attributes for wine, spirits, beer, ready-to-drink beverages and, now, cheese, to help food retailers turn shopper interest into sales and repeat sales. The database is powered by advanced “Sensorial AI” technology that offers one-to-one personalized recommendations based on individual tastes and preferences, which are particularly important in the consumption of cheese.

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Cheese app
Through Preferabli's new cheese platform, shoppers can input their preferences and match with available products that would appeal to them.

Progressive Grocer recently spoke with Pam Dillon, co-founder and CEO of Syracuse, N.Y.-based Preferabli, about the launch of the new cheese capability, the first of its kind in the diverse cheese category. “The main reason we added this capability is the paradox of choice – the whole idea that this world is filled with so many beautiful products, but there is no way for consumers to know which ones they love,” she told PG, noting that it has also been traditionally challenging for food retailers to effectively provide customized recommendations at scale, in-store and online.

Preferabli’s technology helps solve that problem by making the experience truly personal for shoppers. “There are labels, but the labels don’t tell you what you need to know, which is how something tastes,” Dillon explained.

Even stores with on-site experts like cheesemongers can benefit from this new capability. “In a specialty cheese shop, they will give you a taste of anything you want, but how do you frame what you’re are looking for? And even if people know if they want something savory or sweet, they don’t always know what the characteristics are. Our software has the ability to do that, and it brings you so much closer to what you are really after, which is what something tastes like,” Dillon said.

Through the accessible and easy-to-use technology, retailers can expand shoppers’ horizons and bring them closer to making informed decisions, while also enhancing suggestions for pairings with wine, spirits and other adult beverages offered in other parts of a store. “Our experts in cheese, as well as in wine and spirits, have worked at Michelin-starred restaurants as well as honkytonk bars, so we can model people one at a time and how all of the characteristics come across wine, spirts and cheese,” Dillon asserted.

She agreed that it’s a dynamic time to work in these categories and to experience what technology has to offer in empowering people to discover and enjoy an array of products. “These foods and beverages go back thousands of years, and it took AI to figure it out,” she said, with a laugh.

The licensed software for cheese is available now and will be showcased at PG’s upcoming GroceryTech event in Dallas, where attendees can experience a wine, spirits and cheese tasting that fuses technology and personal taste experiences. 

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