Say you’re developing a new barbecue potato chip. You’re using spices from McCormick, which has not one, not two, but over 100 types of garlic flavoring. How do you decide which garlic(s) to use, and in which combinations, to make the best product for your target demographic?
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) can help. Last year, McCormick, the largest flavor company in the world, went public with its five-plus-year partnership with IBM to build a flavor platform using machine learning. We dove deep into this partnership at SKS 2019, when The Spoon’s Chris Albrecht spoke with McCormick’s Chief Science Officer Hamed Faridi and IBM Principal Researcher Richard Goodwin about how AI can help make better, tastier products in less time and with fewer dead ends.
Check out the video below to watch the entire panel (it’s super nerdy and cool).
To whet your appetite, here’s a quick overview of what Faridi and Goodwin discussed in the session.
“The [CPG] iterating process is a very time-consuming, old system,” said Faridi during his onstage presentation. “But that’s the only thing the industry has.” All of that changed when Faridi was driving home and heard an NPR interview with a scientist from IBM’s Chef Watson, a program that develops bepsoke recipes based off of chemical flavor affinities (for example, leeks and chocolate.) Immediately, he was struck: this was the missing piece of the puzzle to develop better products in a smarter way.
Computers can’t taste or smell, so how do they know which flavors taste well together? That’s where data comes in. McCormick has kept all of its data from various flavor development processes and product experiments since the 1980s. IBM’s machine learning algorithms can take those data points and make suggestions about new ingredient combinations without having to go through all the trial, error, and staff training that a human R&D team requires.
The result is a 70 percent reduction in product development time and increased stickiness in the market. Faridi said that the IBM partnership is working so well they expect all of their labs will be using AI by late 2021.
This session was a fascinating look into how a flavor giant and a technology giant have teamed up to make better everyday products. Watch the full video below and get ready for more SKS 2019 content coming your way over the next few weeks!