‘Revitalise the RTD market’: Sapporo to release first alcoholic beverage developed using AI

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Sapporo's “Otoko Ume Sour Salty Plum” is the firm's first product developed using an AI system jointly established with IBM Japan. ©Sapporo Breweries
Sapporo's “Otoko Ume Sour Salty Plum” is the firm's first product developed using an AI system jointly established with IBM Japan. ©Sapporo Breweries

Related tags Japan Sapporo RTD alcohol Alcoholic beverage

Sapporo Breweries and IBM Japan have jointly established an artificial intelligence (AI) system that significantly reduces the time and cost of new product development, and which is poised to play a key role in the alcohol firm’s future innovations.

Named N-Wing Star (New Wing Star), the AI system is the brainchild of Sapporo’s latest product, “Otoko Ume Sour Salty Plum”, which will be commercially sold in Japan from July 4.

During the development process, approximately 1,200 types of formulations as well as data on over 700 raw materials that have been evaluated for about 170 existing products were fed into N-Wing Star.

“Based on the input, the AI system is able to predict the target product composition. It then produces a recipe consisting of the recommended combination of raw materials, ratio (mixing amount) of each material, formulation, and flavour.

“Subsequently, the person-in-charge will refer to this recipe to procure the necessary ingredients and develop a prototype. It has been confirmed that the system can create recipes and ingredient combinations that humans would not have thought of,” ​the firm said.

Furthermore, it was found that with the use of N-Wing Star, the time taken to review raw materials and formulations was reduced by about 75% and 50% respectively.

After full-scale implementation, AI-based high-precision recipe prediction is expected to cut down the time required for rework at the time of prototyping and the total time needed for product development by approximately 50%.”
The positive impact on efficiency and cost-reduction has prompted Sapporo to fully adopt the AI system as a key NPD component.

Secret weapon

The Otoko Ume Sour Salty Plum contains umeboshi​ (Japanese pickled plum) that is crushed and soaked in liquor, and a new umeboshi​ ground paste that Sapporo calls an “unexpected secret ingredient” discovered by N-Wing Star.

“By utilising the AI system, we succeeded in obtaining insights on optimal taste design. The use of ground paste usually affects the refreshing flavour. But it is now possible to enhance the taste of umeboshi and savouriness without increasing the amount of salt content [from the regular Otoko Ume Sour Plum]. The Otoko Ume Sour Salty Plum is the first product under the Otoko Ume range that uses this ingredient,” ​the firm said.

Crafted specially for hot summer days, the chuhai​ (carbonated Japanese cocktail) has an ABV of 5%, and will be available in 350ml and 500ml cans.
The launch will also be part of the Otoko Ume Sour brand’s 10th anniversary celebrations.

In the near future, Sapporo aims to further leverage N-Wing Star to develop new products for its core ready-to-drink (RTD) brands.
“We will continue to improve the prediction accuracy of the system by constantly feeding it with new information on raw materials and formulations.

“At the same time, we will contribute to the revitalisation of the RTD category with value-added products that cater to the market’s needs, while incorporating a system in which humans and AI can work together.”

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