For leading potato chip maker Frito-Lay, to be innovative at scale requires artificial intelligence. The company’s culinary experts and scientists make decisions informed by a custom-built AI engine that monitors social media, retail sales, restaurant trends, and news and search analysis, according to a report from journalist Katie Sehl and published by Fortune.
Sehl reports that Frito-Lays’s AI engine has helped churn up flavors like Red Curry Coconut and Champagne Vinaigrette; Shallot for Red Rock Deli, its artisanal Australian chip brand, and the newly released Lay’s Fried Green Tomato. With the data it collects, the engine can map flavor life cycles and predict staying power based on the depth and quality of conversations. This also lowers the risk of a flavor flop—and the potato chip industry has seen more than a few.
Artificial intelligence has also helped Frito-Lay trim 10% off its development process. As the database grows, timelines could be cut in half, says Michael Lindsey, chief transformation and strategy officer for Frito-Lay North America.
Lindsey presented on Frito-Lay’s developments in machine learning at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference, which was held virtually last week, March 25. His presentation, titled “AI chips. Potato, not Silicon“, explored the use of machine learning both on and off the manufacturing line at PepsiCo and its subsidiary Frito-Lay.
One of the most significant advancements, he says, has been the technology’s ability to uncover micromarkets. It’s why moviegoers in Frisco, Texas, can now find curry-spiced Kurkure Cheetos—once available only in India— alongside Doritos at concession stands. Micromarket analysis revealed that the city was home to a large population of first- and second-generation Indian consumers, many of whom have a penchant for the snack. On a broad level, if you were thinking about what would sell well in Frisco, Texas, you probably wouldn’t land on curry-flavor Cheetos, says Lindsey.