VEVEY, SWITZERLAND — Consumers searching for the perfect cookie will have a new tool thanks to the launch of an innovative new platform from Nestle USA.
Using artificial intelligence (AI), Nestle has debuted the “cookie coach,” a lifelike virtual avatar that uses natural language AI and autonomous animation to answer basic questions about the company’s Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe.
The “coach’s” name is Ruth, in honor of Toll House Inn founder Ruth Wakefield, and can interpret and respond to a range of written or spoken queries.
Nestle said the decision to launch the cookie coach was driven by numerous calls to its helpline asking for tips to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie and troubleshoot cookie baking topics. Calls for help have increased since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, the company said.
Early feedback on the cookie coach has been positive, Nestle said, noting that a recent survey of consumers who engaged with Ruth found 84% of people completing the survey said they would use Ruth again — and 83% would recommend Ruth to a friend.
“The Nestle team has been at work for more than two years to bring Ruth, the ‘cookie coach’ to bakers,” said Orchid Bertelsen, head of digital innovation and transformation at Nestle USA. “Delighting the consumer drives everything we do, so when we analyzed our Consumer Engagement Center calls and found 70% of all inbound inquiries were related to troubleshooting our iconic Nestle Toll House cookie recipe — which also happens to be the most visited page on our website, VeryBestBaking.com — we knew we had an opportunity. The creation of Ruth showcases our investment in tech innovation to ensure we’re meeting consumer needs. We continue to monitor consumer behaviors, how they’re evolving, and look for ways to solve problems through digital innovation across our brand portfolio.”
Unlike other smart speakers or virtual assistants that provide consumers with speech or text-only assistance, Ruth is a multimodal digital human virtual assistant, Ms. Bertelsen said.
“In developing Ruth, we used autonomous animation for her face, which means that the technology that powers her mouth movement automatically matches her speech,” she said. “Artificial intelligence is just one way we support our customers. We want to meet them where they are, whether it’s via phone or through an assistant, like Ruth. We’re proud to be pioneering new technology to test and learn ways to enhance helping customers no matter where they are or how they choose to engage.”
Ms. Bertelsen said Nestle’s digital innovation also includes Nestle Toll House Cookie Delivery, which recently launched in Washington, DC. The delivery program leverages a ghost kitchen and partnerships with DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats and Postmates to provide on-demand delivery of freshly baked cookies.