AI Was Behind Your Honey Hickory BBQ Rub All This Time

Flavoring giant McCormick & Co. capably plays the part of tech company.

McCormick spices

In 1889, Willoughby McCormick started bottling spices in his Baltimore basement.

In 2022, McCormick & Co. made $6.35B in sales. (Cue Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”)

A striking thing about McCormick…

… beside its signature red caps and vast portfolio of flavoring goodness — e.g., French’s, Frank’s RedHot, Cholula — is how it positions itself as a tech company.

At a conference last week, COO Brendan Foley went all Tim Cook on everyone:

  • Innovation: McCormick expects 6x more new product launches YoY in 2023.
  • Focus on design: Its updated packaging preserves freshness with a new “nitrogen flushing” procedure and tighter sealing “snap” cap.
  • Iteration: Sales of McCormick’s larger spice bottles have increased 20% YoY since the pandemic started.

Because no tech company is complete without its own head-scratching jargon, Foley also hailed the company’s “category management mindset.”

None of this should be surprising…

… if only because McCormick was early to the AI party.

McCormick and IBM built SAGE — an AI system trained on decades of flavor chemistry, sensory science, and consumer data — to generate new taste combos.

Here’s the rub: SAGE-assisted products have been in supermarkets since 2019.

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