IBM, Bear Naked Deliver Watson-Based Customized Granola

Bear Naked is using IBM's Chef Watson "cognitive cooking" technology to enable consumers to create customized granola.

IBM big data

You just never know where IBM's Watson cognitive computing technology will pop up next, whether in concierge robots at hotels, as an advisor to cancer patients, as a shopping assistant to consumers or, even now, as an aid in food preparation. It seems like Watson is almost everywhere.

IBM today announced that it is collaborating with Bear Naked, a granola and snack bar provider, to enable consumers to use Watson to make their own blend of granola. Bear Naked has tapped into Chef Watson to deliver Bear Naked Custom Made Granola.

As the first consumer brand to offer Chef Watson-inspired foods, Bear Naked is using Watson's cognitive capabilities to help consumers customize granola combinations based on their personal flavor preferences. Chef Watson sifts through thousands of possible flavor pairings to suggest a match for the user's taste. The custom recommendations come from Watson's ability to understand and visualize relationships between ingredients and their underlying chemistry.

And the ingredients are anything but plain or simple. They range from various nuts and berries to anything from jalapenos and olives to pomegranate and hemp seeds. To create your own custom cognitive-inspired granola, go to where you can choose from more than 50 unique ingredients to come up with a special blend.

"This project is a great example of how Watson's underlying technology can lead to discoveries in any industry," Lauren Berkowitz, director of Watson Life in the IBM Watson unit, said in a statement.

Indeed, this project and this collaboration with Bear Naked are the latest examples of how IBM is pushing the boundaries of what Watson can do.

"Bear Naked says that it's 'stoked to be the first commercial brand to offer Chef Watson foods' but it's reasonable to assume that future partnerships will have a similar shape," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "That's because Chef Watson's specialty lies in finding unusual combinations of foods and flavors that allow commercial partners to develop exotic, even unique new products."

Based on IBM's Watson technology, Chef Watson can ingest and understand far more information than a human can, and retain it and recall it instantly. To test Watson's ability to uncover new ideas, IBM researchers turned to the culinary arts to see if Watson could create entirely new and surprising recipes and ingredient combinations. After reading thousands of recipes and learning about food pairing theories and the hundreds of thousands of complex relationships between flavor compounds, Chef Watson has helped shape the public perception of the potential for cognitive computing, Big Blue said.

Using Watson's natural language and machine learning capabilities, Chef Watson can learn recipes, dish types and ingredients; understand human taste preferences; and then rearrange and redesign the data to generate unique combinations of savory ingredient pairings. Given the numerous different combinations of possible ingredients, it's impossible for a single person to imagine and reason about them all, IBM said.

"Chef Watson, for example, read up on the chemical composition of hundreds of different ingredients and analyzed some 10,000 recipes from Bon Appétit," said a Chef Watson post on the IBM Watson blog penned by author Richard Brandt. "By combining that data and detecting certain patterns, Chef Watson has learned to suggest up to four different ingredients that blend together seamlessly.

"Four doesn't sound like much, until you realize that adds up to about one quintillion possible combinations," Brandt continued. "Cooking Italian? Watson will run through the most typical ingredients used in that cuisine, plus the ingredients they're likely to go well with, and help you make the tastiest choices."

Meanwhile, in addition to allowing consumers to create their own custom granola with Chef Watson, Bear Naked is offering three chef-inspired blends: Chocolate Strawberry Jalapeño (a sweet and spicy combination), Olive You, Kale (a Mediterranean-inspired blend) and Michigan Farms (a blend celebrating the great fruit farms of Michigan).

"We know Bear Naked consumers are looking beyond the cereal aisle for new food experiences, and they want the opportunity to explore new and different tastes and flavors," Dan Barba, marketing lead at Bear Naked, said in a statement. "From the ingredients you choose to the custom name for your blend, there is a story in every canister."

Moreover, the Bear Naked offering is solid from a go-to-market standpoint, as the company has a strong presence in higher-end groceries and chains whose customers don't mind paying a premium for customized products, King said.

"Chef Watson is likely to offer benefits in more mainstream situations, especially those where product development cycles take considerable time and research investment," King said. "If IBM can prove the platform's value in those circumstances, Chef Watson could establish a strong presence in food production and grocery chains worldwide."