Beyond Brats at Beyond Meat HQ. (Photo: Chris Albrecht)

Chris here. I’m in LA this week, which I love because LA is genuinely one of my favorite cities. Sure there is smog, every street is clogged with traffic and it spawned the Kardashian empire. But it’s also vibrant, creative, and filled with tons of good restaurants. It’s for these reasons that you can already see LA emerge as a major food tech hub.

Beyond Meat, has its headquarters here and yesterday I got to take a tour of it to see the real science behind fake meat. While we were surprised to see that the number of vegetarians in the US has stayed the same over the years, it seems like it could change with all the new fake meat coming to market. Especially the Beyond Meat sausage patty, which I tried and is out of this world and will open up the breakfast market for the company (hopefully they can fix their scaling issues before its release).

Elsewhere, vegetarians who love fish will be happy to know that Good Catch just finished closing it’s $8.7 million Series A round to ramp up its plant-based seafood. But if you’re looking for a fake meat sandwich, Catherine Lamb can’t recommend eating the flavorless Lo-Dough flatbread.

I’m scrambling to write this before I head out to Pasadena to meet Flippy, the burger flipping robot at Caliburger. Once a novelty, food robots are becoming more mainstream. Pizza Hut in Seoul, South Korea just put Bear Robotics’ Penny to work in a limited engagement there, while here in California, it was reported that robot pizza company Zume could be getting as much as $750 million from Softbank (though that deal is more about data than robots). If you need further proof that robots are hot, Cafe X is raising another $12 million for its robot baristas to sling even more hot cups of java.

Caliburger also features automated kiosks that let you pay with your face. But is this type of hyper-personal payment system a good thing? It’s a question Jenn Marston asked when writing about the new CLEAR-based system that will let Seahawks fans pay for beer with their fingerprints. A good way to validate payments? Or a creepy way to keep track of how much beer you buy? (Or a little bit of both).

And finally, June released and started shipping its second-gen connected oven this week. Perhaps the best new feature of the June is the price, which dropped to $599 ($499 if you act quickly) from the first-gen’s $1,500 price tag. The sports an HD camera to identify what you’re cooking, loads of pre-sets (64 just for bacon!) to make that cooking easier, and improved product engineering that lets users cook with no pre-heating. I ordered one, so expect a review in the near future.

But for right now, I have to get to Pasadena and that traffic isn’t going to get any easier.

Have a great weekend, and be kind.

-Chris

Stories featured in this newsletter:

The Number of Vegetarians Today Is the Same as in 2012 — Is That About to Change?
Mara Judkis wrote a Washington Post article which blew our preconceived notions about the number of non-meat-eaters out of the water. In the piece, she wrote that only 5% of Americans identified as vegetarian; a number which has remained unchanged since 2012 — and, in fact, is down from the number of vegetarians in 1999 and 2001.

Good Catch Foods Reels In $8.7 Million for Plant-Based Seafood
Good Catch Foods, the Pennsylvania-based startup which makes seafood out of plants, closed an $8.7 million Series A funding round yesterday. This ups their Series A from the $5.5 million the company announced in April.

Lo-Dough is a No-Go for Bread Lovers, But Gives Food for Thought
When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Such is the case with Lo-Dough, a fat-free, gluten-free, high fiber product that’s meant to be a substitute for bread. With 90 percent fewer carbs than bread and 39 calories per serving (a serving is one 9-inch disc), it’s geared towards the health-conscious and paleo market.

Bear Robotics’ Penny Clocks in at Pizza Hut in South Korea
Pizza Hut in South Korea today announced it is rolling out a new robotic employee at one of its Seoul restaurants. While the robot is called Dilly Plate there, Spoon readers might know it better as “Penny,” the self-driving dish busser robot from Bay Area startup Bear Robotics.

Report: SoftBank Cooking Up Potential $750M Investment in Zume
Bloomberg reported yesterday that Softbank Group is in discussions to invest from $500 million to $750 million into Zume, the Bay Area company that uses a combination of data, robots and specially outfitted vans to deliver hot pizza.

Cafe X Raising $12 Million “Seed-1” Round
Cafe X, the startup that builds robot baristas, is in the process of raising a $12 million “Seed-1” round. Crunchbase News broke the story after coming across regulatory filings which showed that Cafe X has already raised $9.42 million of the new round. Cafe X Founder and CEO Henry Hu later confirmed the news with Crunchbase.

Seahawks Fans Can Now Buy Beer With Their Fingerprints. Is That a Good Thing?
Planning on a Seahawks game in the near future? Leave your wallet at home. Ok maybe take your wallet, but you won’t need it to buy beer and snacks during the game, or even to enter CenturyLink Field. CLEAR, who makes biometric scanning technology, has teamed up with the Seahawks as well as the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Sounders to get fans through security faster and allow them to purchase concessions without an ID or credit card.

June Ships 2nd Gen Smart Oven, Reduces Price to $499
June, the company behind the eponymous countertop connected cooking oven, today announced the release of its second generation June Oven, which is available and shipping immediately for $499.

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