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Feast or fiasco: The curious case of AI-generated images and recipes


The boundaries between technology and everyday life have become harder to discern. Instacart’s recent artificial intelligence (AI) botched images exemplify the quirky turns a tale can take when technology lets us down. 

Instacart has been keen on using this technology since before generative AI (Gen AI) exploded onto the scene. The same-day delivery service introduced Ask Instacart, “a first-of-its-kind AI-powered search tool designed to assist with customers’ grocery shopping questions.”

It rolled out a ChatGPT-powered plugin in March 2023 and the improved Instacart Storefront in September. It should also be noted that Instacart CEO Fidji Simo recently joined OpenAI’s board of directors.

Instacart’s tech-powered innovations aside, its use of AI-crafted recipes and images recently raised several collective eyebrows. 

Instacart's AI-generated images and recipes

Instacart’s AI-generated images

The company’s venture into AI-generated recipes and images with its ‘Food Inspiration Search Tool’ brought horror and humor. The images used for the recipes ranged from bizarre to downright amusing. 

Some recipes featured non-existent ingredients and images, while others showed ‘impossible’ compositions, such as conjoined chickens and cookie-infused coffee mugs. 

The images were initially shared on Reddit’s r/instacart board, where the comments ranged from “These make me uncomfortable” to “These give me the heebie jeebies.”

One Reddit user said they “would not feel very confident in a recipe that [Instacart] couldn’t bother to make […] and photograph it.”

byu/skyrimshuffle17 from discussion

An Instacart spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that the images were AI-generated, saying the company was “optimizing for the best user experience.”

If an image “does not deliver a high-quality consumer experience, our team reviews the content and may remove it.”

Some of the weird concoctions on the Instacart website included: 

  • Grape salad with cream cheese
  • Simple brined whole chicken
  • Cheese potato recipe with cheddar
  • Hot dog stir fry
  • Steamed broccoli crowns

A pizza or a pie?

When AI images were spotted on a NYC pizzeria listing on Uber Eats, Twitter user shared screenshots of the images, showing a fruit pie instead of a pizza. Meanwhile, another image depicted a made-up dressing brand, called ‘Lelnach.’ 

He called the pizzeria and recorded the conversation: 

Burger King’s ‘leather and barcode toppings’

Fully embracing the AI trend, Burger King recently announced a contest where the ‘Whopper idea could win you $1 million.” The advert cheekily states that the images used are “not not AI-generated.” 

The premise is simple: Patrons are invited to use the AI Burger Generator (only available in selected regions) and add any topping they want. If Burger King decides a creation is good enough to add to their lineup, the winner gets $1,000,000.

Of course, the contest drew some criticism on social media. On Reddit, a poster said Burger King “did a very poor job of actually communicating” the AI factor.

“The way they phrased it makes it seem like … they are using AI-generated visuals just for the hell of it.” 

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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