AI Helps McCormick Spice Up Product Development

Company uses artificial intelligence to mine 40 years of consumer data.
February 07, 2019

HUNT VALLEY, Md. – McCormick & Co. is using artificial intelligence reduce the time it takes it to create a new item by up to 70%, reports

The company is in the business of adding flavor to foods and has always relied on humans to concoct the next successful product. Now, McCormick has partnered with IBM to use artificial intelligence to mine the 40 years of data it has amassed on consumers, taste palates and product attributes.

Previously, the company created new products by tapping into an estimated 4,000 ingredients in its database, and the items were heavily tested and tweaked before heading to market.

McCormick hopes AI will enable it to comb through data faster and more effectively by knowing which ingredients work together or which ones can be substituted for others. McCormick plans to introduce its first three AI-enabled products in the late spring: recipe mix flavors of Tuscan Chicken, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin and New Orleans Sausage.

"The No. 1 challenge is how to create a product that will stay in the market for a long period of time. New products usually disappear within three, four or five years," said Hamed Faridi, chief science officer, McCormick. "With this amazing compatibility, you can tap into 40-years-plus experience. We have a very good chance to create a product that becomes the next icon, either for us or for our customers, and stays on the market for 10, 20, 30, 50 years."

Faridi said AI could make product development up to 70% faster. A product developer can simply press a button, starting computer algorithms that ,minutes later, generate a dozen new recipe formulation ideas. 

Using artificial intelligence will allow workers to consider previously untapped combinations or recommend things a human may never consider. That occurred recently when AI suggested that a product developer add cumin to enhance the flavor profile of a pizza spice.

From the creation of new spice combinations to the development of driverless cars, AI is changing today’s world. So far, big data collection in the convenience store industry has focused on inventory control and sales tracking, allowing store operators to more accurately calculate stock availability and reorder products.  

AI is complex, and technology experts urge businesses to train more employees in AI algorithms’ parameters and performance levels so they can use data to improve the operation, and, when necessary, work closely with experts to create new AI applications.