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AI gets spicy with new McCormick flavors

The spice and seasoning company is using AI from IBM to create new flavors like "New Orleans Sausage" and "Farmers Market Chicken."

Artificial intelligence could be what's for dinner, thanks to a partnership between McCormick & Company and IBM. The two brands are have been working together for years on flavor research, and recently announced that the fruits of their labor will hit shelves this year. 

IBM and McCormick developed an artificial intelligence system built on data points and years of research to predict new flavor combinations and help flavor developers create new recipes quicker. 

McCormick's first AI-enabled product line, called One, will launch this year with a set of one-dish recipe mixes. Just what sort of flavors are AI bots dreaming up? For now, you'll get Tuscan Chicken, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin, Farmers Market Chicken, Glazed Salmon and New Orleans Sausage. Those mixes are intended for proteins and vegetables and are expected to be available in the US in late spring. 

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Flavor is a complicated experience, of course. As humans, our sight, taste and smell all play into how we perceive a flavor. The new favors in the One line were created by combining IBM's AI and machine-learning capabilities with more than 40 years of proprietary sensory science and taste data from McCormick. That includes decades of past product formulas and data about consumer taste preferences. 

We've seen AI in other parts of the kitchen, like Whirlpool's WLabs Smart Countertop Oven and the June Intelligent Oven. Will AI someday takeover all our food science labs? Probably not. I'd like to think we'll always have at least a few humans taste-testing any computer's culinary creations. 

However, having AI around to suggest new flavors based on past successes has helped McCormick developers speed up the process of creating new seasonings, and that could mean more options for consumers and better weeknight dinners.