Firmenich creates ‘world’s first’ flavour by artificial intelligence

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages/Andy
Pic: GettyImages/Andy

Related tags: Firmenich, Artificial intelligence

In an industry first, the perfume and taste company has announced a new flavour developed by artificial intelligence (AI).

Flavour-to-fragrance manufacturer Firmenich describes the new flavour as a ‘delicious, lightly grilled beef taste’ for used in plant-based meat alternatives.

Sensory panels have responded ‘exceptionally well’ to the flavour, the company’s Natural Platform VP, Amaury Roquette, told FoodNavigator.

Tapping AI to develop flavour

The ‘world’s first’ AI flavour, created in collaboration with Microsoft, leveraged the entirety of Firmenich’s raw material database.

The AI technology essentially searches Firmenich’s raw materials data base, looking for the most winning taste combinations, Roquette explained.  At the same time, it optimises raw material usage and accounts for search requirements, such as ‘all natural’ or ‘organically certified’, as well as regulatory restrictions and tonalities.

“From there, our flavourists have a strong, optimised flavour from which they can bring their unique expertise and savoir-faire, sensory mastery and creativity,” ​he told this publication.

The world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and flavour house says it is ‘leading’ the industry is ‘augmented creativity’, and revealed it is currently in the advanced testing phase for ‘several’ new AI-generated flavours.

For Firmenich’s Chief Digital and Information Officer Eric Saracchi, the development enables ‘enhanced formulation’. “AI enables us to explore new boundaries by empowering our creators with a precise formula starting point, as well as additional suggestions for optimised ingredient combinations from which they can create bespoke tastes.”

The advantages of AI creations

Leveraging AI technology to create flavours makes Firmenich’s offerings more competitive, accelerates speed to market, and improves taste, we were told.

veggie burger ablokhin
Firmenich describes the AI-created flavour as a ‘delicious, lightly grilled beef taste’ for used in plant-based meat alternatives. Pic: GettyImages/ablokhin

Specifically, the development allows for better, more efficient new flavours and reformulation, Firmenich’s Roquette explained. Further, it enhances ‘rationalisation’ for customers. For example, if a customer wants to reformulate a portfolio to ‘all natural’, or make a SKU ‘certified organic’, it can be done ‘more effectively and efficiently’ with the help of AI technology, said Roquette.

Concerning speed to market, the VP said the technology helps reduce overall time from brief to shelf.

Further, it can help customers create ‘winning products’ based on key consumer trends and needs, such as sugar reduction and smart proteins, he elaborated. It does this by “instantly matching synergies in taste and performance across all solution and technologies…or entire palettes of natural materials and extracts, including natural plant-based sweeteners”.   

Roquette said its AI platform also optimises raw materials usage, meaning it produces less waste and is therefore more sustainable. It does this by analysing performance and recommending optimum inclusion levels of raw materials, such as natural extracts, we were told.

Other advantages include offering an ‘improved taste’, by allowing Firmenich’s flavourists to focus on the front end of the process – to add to the AI-created flavour through their ‘unique savoir-faire’. And finally, it “paves the way for more innovative products by developing new flavours from white space, by creating tastes and flavour combinations that haven’t been thought of before”.  ​ 

For Firmenich Flavors President, Emmanuel Butstraen, the development represents the company’s response to ‘rapidly-evolving’ needs at an ‘even faster pace’. “Whether through offering moments of comfort and delight or addressing the larger shift towards healthier food and beverages, the exciting addition of AI allows us to better leverage different raw materials and explore new creative leads.

“Taking into account specific product parameters such as 100% natural ingredients and regulator requirements, the technology enhances our flavourists’ capability to create superior taste solutions and accelerate our product development.”

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