Are digital platforms the next frontier for hyperlocal businesses like craft beer?

One of the most exciting – but undercovered – aspects of food and kitchen tech is how it offers new monetization models for creators. I’m not talking about e-books or other more conventional formats for beer makers, chefs, and mixologists, but instead how creators can harness the power of connected hardware and software to begin to create digital distribution and content license opportunities.

What do I mean by this? As I wrote over at Forbes in a piece focused on craft alcohol, we are beginning to see examples of startups creating licensing models that leverage creative work in the worlds of craft beer and cocktails. While these businesses have been, by necessity, hyperlocal because they produce artisanal food crafts in a specific location at small scale, connected products with associated marketplaces and publishing platforms could change that. By bringing the combination of precision automation and digital distribution to the market through connected hardware, these startups are creating new ways for a bartender or master brewer to get their work out into the world – and around – the world.

As I wrote in Forbes:

PicoBrew’s Mitchell talked about this in the abstract a year ago when they launched the Kickstarter for their new beer brewing appliance, but with their beer brewing appliance now shipping, they’re doing it. They have licensed recipes from over 130 craft brewers across the world and are now pushing out PicoPaks, which are essentially pods with all the grains and hops tailored to the specific recipes of each of these brewers. The owner of a PicoBrew in Boca Raton, Florida can buy a PicoPak with a recipe from a beer brewer in Oregon and have the beer in 5-7 days (how long it takes to make beer with the PicoBrew).

Bartesian is doing something similar with craft cocktails by licensing the recipes and putting into pods.

But it’s not just liquor. ChefSteps, makers of the Joule sous vide cooker, is looking to create a community and influencer recipe platform that would enable a chef to create his or her own branded cooking education, guidance, and community experience. So instead of just writing a blog post for how to make sous vide steak, for example, J. Kenji López-Alt could also have an associated “guided cooking recipe” that offers video and some specific automated instructions for the Joule itself.

Of course, all of this is early, and we have yet to see how any of this can work at scale. However, I do believe applying digital distribution and marketplace dynamics to craft food creation could result in a massive shift and provide new lifelines to creators who have been limited both in geographic reach and scale.