Three of these AI-assisted creations are hitting shelves soon.

By Mike Pomranz
February 04, 2019
Courtesy of McCormick

We’ve all been there: You’re craving something, but you’re just not quite sure what. Is it possible artificial intelligence might know the answer? McCormick thinks that might be the case. The flavor giant has teamed up with IBM to use AI to help develop new, more wonderful flavors.

Founded back in 1889, and with 500 development employees across 20 labs in 14 countries, McCormick boasts that it’s a perfectly positioned for using AI. “We have more than 40 years of documented data, sensory and taste data, in our system,” McCormick’s chief science officer Hamed Faridi told FoodNavigator-USA. “We were one of the early adopters of sensory methodology.” Recently, the brand has been running all that info through IBM Research machine learning algorithms to see if they can figure out “What is next in flavor?”

Despite sounding a bit like science fiction, McCormick says it has already used this new AI system in the development of three new seasoning mixes that will be hitting shelves soon: Tuscan Chicken, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin, and New Orleans Sausage.

Sure, those flavors don’t sound particularly crazy, but the AI technology isn’t necessarily about conjuring up the bizarre — though McCormick does believe it can aid in creativity. Instead, AI is apparently especially helpful at making flavors better and doing it faster. “The machine, because it doesn’t stop creating, gives options and novel solutions that are pushing the boundaries,” Faridi was quoted as saying. “It is a learning machine. Every day is better than the previous day. It is going to help us develop more preferred flavors, more icons, for ourselves and our customers.”

Along those lines, AI can also be used to ratchet up a flavor’s punch. “When we develop any product we have a hedonic target of 6.5 or 7,” Faridi states. “So the developer, when they get the sensory evaluation to a 7, accepts that is ready to go to full commercialization. The machine has no boundary on this. It is always looking for making it better and making suggestions.” Yes, a robot can be more hedonistic than most humans. Damn, lucky robots!

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