Mentions of artificial intelligence within the filings of companies in the food industry rose 17% between the first and second quarters of 2021, according to research by GlobalData.

Nevertheless, in total, the frequency of sentences related to artificial intelligence between July 2020 and June 2021 was 38% lower than in 2016, when GlobalData, from whom our data for this article is taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When food manufacturing companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Artificial intelligence is one of these topics – companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether artificial intelligence is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of food companies, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies that have mentioned artificial intelligence at least once in filings during the past twelve months – this was 68% compared to 48% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of analysed sentences that referred to artificial intelligence.

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Of the 50 biggest employers in the food manufacturing indsutry, Nichirei Corp was the company that referred to artificial intelligence the most between July 2020 and June 2021. GlobalData identified 16 AI-related sentences in the Japan-based company's filings – 0.8% of all sentences.

Another Japanese group, Itochu Corp., mentioned artificial intelligence the second-most – the issue was referred to in 0.5% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high artificial-intelligence mention rates included Japanese seafood major Maruha Nichiro Corp., Indian FMCG giant ITC and NH Foods, the Japan-based meat-products group.

Across all food manufacturing companies the filing published in the second quarter of 2021 that exhibited the greatest focus on artificial intelligence came from US baker Hostess Brands Inc. Of the document's 1,098 sentences, six (0.5%) referred to artificial intelligence.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on artificial intelligence and how important the issue is considered within the food manufacturing indsutry, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully.

For example, a company mentioning artificial intelligence more regularly is not necessarily proof they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into AI have been successes or failures.

In the last quarter, food manufacturing companies based in Asia were most likely to mention artificial intelligence with 0.12% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in the US mentioned artificial intelligence in just 0.05% of sentences.