AI-generated food images fool majority of UK consumers

This image of a margherita pizza was generated by AI engine DALL-E

A recent small-scale study has revealed that the vast majority of UK consumers are unable to discern between an AI-generated image of food and one captured by a professional photographer. The study, commissioned by DTC tech company Slerp, found that, on average, 60% of participants were unable to distinguish whether a food image was a genuine photograph or created by OpenAI’s DALL-E image generator.

This finding holds significance for online grocers, direct-to-consumer (DTC) operations, and hospitality businesses, as previous research conducted by Slerp indicated that 50% of consumers are more inclined to order food online when they can visualize its appearance. Founder of Slerp, JP Then, remarked, “We know the public generally likes seeing food before they order online, so if a restaurant has the time and budget for a professional photo shoot that can truly reflect their menu, then we would always say to go for it. But this experiment shows that for most people, when looking at pictures online, the AI version of the pizza is as appealing as the real thing.”


One of these images is a photograph and the other was generated by AI. See below to find out which.

The study involved renowned UK food photographer David Robson capturing images of prepared dishes at Eataly London, alongside AI-generated images of the same dishes created with DALL-E. Subsequently, these images were presented to 100 consumers. Astonishingly, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the participants were unable to identify an AI-generated version of a margherita pizza, while approximately two-thirds failed to recognize AI-generated images of a croissant or a bowl of cacio e pepe pasta (66% and 69% respectively).

JP Then expressed that for brands and companies facing limitations in terms of resources, timing, or budgets, utilizing AI-generated images that still possess an appealing aesthetic and accurately represent the actual items being offered is a viable option.

Generative AI, a branch of artificial intelligence that employs techniques like neural networks and deep learning to generate original content, is already being explored in the grocery sector. This technology has the capability to generate conversational text, images, video, computer code, music, and more.

Leading companies have been experimenting with generative AI in diverse ways. Coca-Cola, for instance, recently invited digital artists to create DALL-E AI artworks based on its brand assets. The most exceptional pieces will be showcased on digital billboards at London’s iconic Piccadilly Circus. Carrefour, on the other hand, is currently piloting a computer-generated human avatar that provides ChatGPT-generated responses to customer inquiries about purchasing healthier and more affordable food through the grocer’s website.

Deliveroo, a prominent food delivery platform, hosted a generative AI-focused hackathon where its developers presented various use cases for the technology. One notable creation was a chatbot capable of addressing employee queries. Deliveroo CEO Will Shu, in an interview with The Grocer, expressed his amazement at the technology, stating, “The amount of things we can apply it to what we do today is already huge. It’s not one of those things where it’s a theory. This is live today. I feel as strongly about this as I do the iPhone.”

P.S. The image of the tiramisu on the left was generated by AI, the one on the right is a photograph

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