Nestlé's AI Cookie Expert Is Named In Honor Of The Toll House Founder

When all hell is breaking loose in the kitchen, Ruth is a voice of reassuring reason. She's a cookie baking expert on par with the best of them. She's on call to offer advice when, despite your best efforts, you're getting burned cookie edges and/or globby mounds of semi-cooked batter. She's capable of talking wayward bakers through even the most drastic cookie-making disasters — and she's not even human.

Developed by Nestlé in partnership with Soul Machines, Ruth is a "digital human" capable of engaging in interactive discussion and problem-solving. Nestlé introduced Ruth in 2021 as the go-to source for answers to questions concerning the number-one topic fielded by the company's consumer help line: how to make the perfect Toll House cookie. "With 70% of our inbound calls related to perfecting the iconic Nestle Toll House cookie recipe, we wanted to give consumers a consistent expert, powered by AI, who could provide a step-by-step overview of how to perfect their cookies, make customizations based on dietary and personal preferences, and respond to a cookie 911," Orchid Bertelsen, head of digital strategy and innovation for Nestle USA, told Food & Wine.

Soul Machines says Ruth provides an "information-rich, emotionally intelligent virtual assistant experience." Also known as the Nestlé Cookie Coach, Ruth is the result of two years of research and development, time spent digging deep into data collected through the company's call center and social media channels.

A tale of two Ruths

While Cookie Coach Ruth is firmly rooted in present-day technology, the on-call AI expert's name is a nod to Ruth Wakefield (via Soul Machines). The creator of the original Toll House Cookie, Ruth and her husband, Kenneth, opened a restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts — named the Toll House due to its location across from a toll stop on the Boston-Bedford Turnpike — in the 1930s, according to Culinary Lore. A talented baker, Ruth made desserts, including butter drop cookies with almonds, for the restaurant. One day, out of almonds, she decided to substitute bits of chocolate, and the rest, as they say, is history. Nestlé caught wind of Ruth's new cookie recipe and requested permission to print it on their chocolate: It's the same recipe still printed on every bag of Nestlé Chocolate Chips.

Ruth Wakefield died in 1977, so must of us don't know what she was like. We do, however, imagine she may have been like a best friend, grandma, and Mrs. Claus all rolled into one. That's the essence Soul Machines strived to achieve in creating Cookie Coach Ruth, describing her as empathetic, thoughtful, patient, unbiased, and non-judgmental. Capable of responding to both written and spoken queries with videos and images, Ruth can also offer options for personal preferences or dietary requirements including gluten-free, egg-free, low-sugar, and dairy-free.

Consumer feedback is positive, with 84% of people who completed a post-encounter survey indicating they'd call on Cookie Coach Ruth again in the future, according to Food Business News.