Food and Virtual Reality: From Guinness to Fruity Pebbles. What’s next?

It’s estimated that the virtual reality market is currently worth about 2.7 billion dollars, and by 2020, global earnings should reach 24.3 billion. Lots of companies are already experimenting, and some are even using it as a type of focus group. Guinness, for example. How does it relate to food? Researchers have shown how VR can change consumer reactions. So what is the future of this technology in the food industry?

Virtual Reality and augmented reality: the differences

At its core, virtual reality is nothing more than a different way to experience digital content. If films and videogames have us in the role of passive spectator, with VR we can move around within digital worlds, and sometimes even interact with objects just like in the real world. To access virtual reality though, you need to equip yourself with a VR headset that creates the illusion of an extremely realistic 3-dimensional world.
The difference between virtual and augmented reality is that you’re still interacting with the real world with the latter, but with added digital elements like animations or text. To see them you use your smartphone screen or other devices like Google Lens or Microsoft’s Holens. Virtual reality requires a headset and immerses the user in a completely digital environment, where they lose perception of the world around them.

Marketing with VR

Last year, the American brand Post first forayed in to VR when it launched an advertising campaign for its product Fruity Pebbles. The user was catapulted into a virtual world and led through a series of activities such as painting murals or riffing with a garage band. “A bowl of Fruity Pebbles creates this kind of overload sensory experience, and VR does that exactly. That was kind of the parallel for us,” said Olivery Perez, Senior Brand Manager of Pebbles.

Virtual reality and Guinness help you pick the right beer

Guinness, too, has recognized the potential of virtual reality. They’ve installed several virtual headsets in Tesco, one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK. The voice of Peter Simpson, master brewer from Guinness Open Gate in Dublin leads participants on a tasting tour. The audio and visual aspects help point out the different components of certain beers. To create the right combination of light, color and beer, the campaign’s creators (R/GA London) turned to Professor Charles Spence, who specializes in experimental psychology at Oxford University. “We hope shoppers appreciate Guinness beers in a new light – and maybe like a beer they wouldn’t have thought to try otherwise,” explained Halie Ritterman, Global Digital & Data Lead at Guinness.

Patrón uses AR for its tequila

For years, alcohol brands have used augmented reality in a high-tech marketing strategy to get their customers better acquainted with their products. This allows them to offer more information about their product or tell the user the brand’s story. And it’s all no further than your smartphone. One example is the tequila brand Patrón, who created an augmented reality app to show consumers how tequila is produced, and take them through an at-home tasting experience. To immerse yourself in this journey, you just need to download “The Patrón Experience” from the App Store. This is why Patrón is considered the first brand to really take advantage of the capabilities of iOS 11 and the A11 Bionic processor.

The future of Virtual Reality? If you can imagine it …

We now know that virtual reality is no longer the future: it’s already present. It has the shape of a smartphone, the transportability of a tablet, the technology of Skype and the animations of Pokemon Go. The only limit to this technology is imagination. We could be able to shop from the comfort of our sofas, easily picking or rejecting outfits. We could do the grocery shopping during our lunch break at work without having to battle the supermarket crowds at rush hour. We could go to the movies without actually going anywhere. And that’s just the start. There are still so many ideas and possibilities for us to discover.


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