When she was a child, Ayelet Carasso-Sternberg would watch episodes of Star Trek with her father and marvel at the show’s technology-filled future. Fast forward several decades later and during one particularly hungry day at the office, Carasso was lamenting the fact that there was still no food replicator like they had on the Enterprise.
It was that love of sci-fi and an empty stomach that set Carasso-Sternberg in motion to co-found and become CEO of Genie, which makes a countertop appliance that will cook you a meal with the push of a button.
There are two parts to the Genie system: the hardware, which is a small, squat device resembling a vintage refrigerator, and the cups-in-a-meal, which are filled with freeze-dried ingredients. (Carasso is quick to stress that these aren’t frozen pre-made meals; rather, they’re individual ingredients assembled into one vessel). There are 30 Genie meals that run the gamut of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
To make something such as penne bolognese or a rice and lentil bowl, you scan the meal cup with the machine, insert it into the cooking cavity, puncture the lid with the water/steam attachment and push a button. The Genie device does the rest, heating and mixing all the ingredients together and giving you a hot meal in three minutes.
The Genie uses three types of heat: precision microwave targeting, the company’s patented steam technology, and conduction heating via the cradle that holds the meal container. After scanning the meal, the Genie’s algorithms know how much water to add, and how much of the three heating types to use and when to properly cook each element within the container.
The only thing that enters the pod is the steam or water supply, which heats, reconstitutes and and acts as a directional mixer for the ingredients.
Hungry people reading this who are interested in the Genie will have to get a job to find one as it’s strictly a B2B play right now. There’s no consumer version available yet. The hardware itself is free with a subscription to the meals, and while Genie won’t reveal specific pricing, Carasso told me in an interview that the cost for the end user would typically be between $4 and $7 per meal.
Genie raised $10 million in 2018, and the product is already available in Israel. With today’s announcement, the company is expanding into the U.S. It will face some competition in the North American office space from startups like Markov, which sells a hardware/prepped meal combo with the Level 1 (and also has special microwave technology), and Kitchenmate, which has its own cooker + meal solution.
Going after the corporate market is a good starting place for Genie. Companies are looking for a meal solution for their employees that is somewhere between offering nothing and the massive expense of providing free catered meals. Meal-in-a-box solutions like Genie’s help fit that bill. Now we’ll just have to see if American businesses will beam these food pods up.