AI really knows what your customers want. Source: Shutterstock

AI really knows what your customers want. Source: Shutterstock

McCormick latest to use AI for new product development

COMPANIES are really beginning to see the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). Although formidable in the data center and at the office, the technology can also play a significant role in the lab.

Recently, we’ve seen soda makers, breweries, and ice-cream makers use AI to create the next big hit — and the trend hasn’t stopped.

Most recently, US-food giant McCormick and Company specializing in spices, seasonings, mixes, condiments, and other flavoring products for industrial, restaurant, institutional and home markets has announced that it will be partnering with IBM to use AI in its new product development function.

The company not only has a strong marketing and distribution presence in Southeast Asia through its office in Singapore but also carries several products tailored for the Asian tastebud.

Typically, a new product is conceived in the lab and takes up to 150 iterations before it is ready for commercial production. Even then, it isn’t always a guaranteed hit.

AI, however, can solve that problem.

Given all the commentary from food and beverage companies so far, it’s clear that AI can work its magic — and here’s why:

People of different ethnicities have different tastes and preferences. As a result, people from a certain country have a certain distinct flavor-profile.

And although this flavor profile is influenced by where someone grew up or what they were fed in their early days, the profiles of what will make someone’s mouth water is quite easy to capture as a data set.

These data sets are then fed to AI engines, along with recipes that are popular in a particular region and market, and the kind of people the product is intended for — and you magically have a computer-generated concoction that is flavor-coded to appeal to the senses of the target market.

“The food industry in general … always wants products that stay in the market longer. Developing an iconic product to become the next Philadelphia Cream Cheese or Oreo cookie is one of the biggest challenges of the industry,” said McCormick’s Chief Science Officer Hamed Faridi.

“We believe that because of the data and the learning of the system, it will allow us and our customers to look into a variety of ingredients we would not have used regularly and come up with a product that will have greater stickiness in the market,” Faridi explained.

McCormick is clearly not the first to use AI in the lab to create the next perfect product, and it certainly won’t be the last. However, as more players in the food and beverage industry dive into AI, the race to capture data about tastes and preferences will intensify — as will the need to create smarter systems that spot niche markets.