With 2017 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward and make some predictions about the next year in food and cooking. While I often wait until after CES to look into the crystal ball since there are always lots of announcements at the annual consumer tech mega-show, I think it’s safe to point to a few big trends we can expect over the next 12 months.
With that in mind, here are ten trends I think you’ll see the shape the future of the kitchen over the next twelve months (Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on our coverage of all of these trends over the next year):
Digital Recipe At The Center Of Action
With apologies to Tyler Florence, the recipe is not dead. In fact, if anything the recipe is becoming increasingly important in the digital kitchen. It’s becoming our automated shopping list, the instruction set for our appliances, and the content is becoming dynamic, atomized and personalized depending on our personal preferences and the context of our current day, meal plan, and food inventory.
I expect all of this to continue in 2018 and even accelerate as recipes become shoppable, connected to cooking guidance systems and fuse with new interfaces such as voice assistants and chatbots to help with the cooking process.
New Cooking Boxes
While “cooking box” isn’t exactly a standard industry term, it’s an apt way to describe the wide variety of exciting products coming to market that allow consumers new ways to prepare food.
Last year we started to see new takes on steam ovens like the Tovala, the first consumer market RF cooking appliance announced in Miele’s Dialog, and even combo devices that combine fast-cooking with flash-freezing like the Frigondas. In 2018, I expect to see lots more innovation with built-in and counter top products as old-school appliance manufacturers and housewares brands realize there’s opportunity in deviating from the same-old cooking appliances and offering consumers new options when it comes to preparing food.
Smart Grow Systems Move Towards Mass Market
While home grow systems have been around for years, adoption has remained fairly narrow. That will start to change in 2018 as the idea of using technology to grow and create our food at home enters the mainstream consciousness. Driving this trend will be the ever-increasing consumer desire to source food more locally. After all, what’s more local than our own homes?
The great thing about this space is there’s already a wide gamut of interesting options available for consumers today. Whether it’s low-cost offerings like seed quilts, to the growing number of soil-less home grow systems like those from Aerogarden or Ava, to crazy backyard farm robots like those from Farmbot, I think we’ll see more innovative products – and greater consumer adoption – in 2018.
There’s no doubt one of the most interesting trends we’ve seen in consumer food over the past couple years is the embrace of interesting fermented products like kombucha, and I think this interest will start to generate more interest in consumers fermenting their food at home.
We’ve already seen companies like Panasonic show off fermented food cookers, and beer appliance startup PicoBrew is starting to offer Kombucha as an offering. With interest in fermented products likely to increase, I expect more innovators will look to make creating these products at home easier.
Desserts Meet Tech
Like most, I love myself a good dessert, and I expect we will see an increasing number of interesting ways to fuse technology with sweets in the coming year. Some of these innovations will focus on convenience (like the CHiP cookie maker), but some will enable consumers to create hard-to-make sweets like chocolate, ice cream and other types of desserts that are normally time and knowledge intensive. Expect to see some interesting announcements in this space in the next 12 months.
When the Wall Street Journal’s Wilson Rothman got on stage at the Smart Kitchen Summit with startups creators of digital food sensing tech and demoed live in front of a huge audience, you could hear the audience murmur as Wilson and crew smelled cheese with a digital nose or tried out the Scio infrared spectrometer. This technology that has long been gestating for commercial and supply chain applications is finally making its way into the home, and I expect that to continue in 2018, particularly as some find new ways to apply AI to better prediction and understanding around flavors and food characteristics.
Meal Services And Connected Hardware
One of the trends we’ve been watching for a while is the pairing of meal kits with connected hardware. That trend accelerated in 2017 as Tovala shipped product, Nomiku created their sous vide ready meals and Innit hinted at new products powered by Chef’d as we ended the year.
It makes sense. Recurring revenue has long been the mantra of venture capitalists (just ask Tovala, which just got a $9.2 million series A), and in the connected cooking space, the way to get recurring revenue is offer food. I also expect meal kit companies to also increasingly look for ways to partner with kitchen tech innovators (much like Chef’d has with Innit) as they look for ways to raise adoption and retention for consumers.
Speaking of food delivery…
Automated, Smart Grocery Delivery
With the acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon stopped dabbling around the edges with lab experiments like Amazon Go, Amazon Dash and Amazon Fresh made its intentions clear: it wants to take a big bite out of the $700 billion grocery business in the US. And while the company has had mixed success with efforts like its Fresh delivery business, these long-gestating experiments have given them a potentially huge advantage as they start to set up central hubs and physical points of presence for the grocery business post-Whole Foods.
And now, Amazon and others see the opportunity to fuse home delivery with smart home access control and automatically deliver groceries all the way to the fridge. Combine that with the ability of fridges to actually tell us when food needs a refresh, and you can unlock some interesting scenarios.
While this past year saw the continued march forward towards of popular voice interfaces like Alexa, I think we’re only at the beginning of a large-scale change in the control layer for how we buy, prepare and cook our food. Sure, we’ll see more and more Alexa skills for cooking gadgets in 2018, but also expect more manufacturers embrace chatbots and projection interfaces as ways to interact with our cooking equipment this year.
We cover cooking robots here at The Spoon a bunch, and while many are fun and likely never to see wide adoption over the next decade, there are a variety of interesting cooking bots we’ve seen that might have real applications for specific use cases. Some are simple food automation devices. Others are more social robots. And, in some cases, companies are working on human-like robots that could be intriguing additions to the kitchen of the future.
Needless to say with CES less than a week away, we’ll likely see many of these trends reinforced with news. I’ll be at CES catching up on many of these announcements myself, so if you hear of any or want me to know about your product, DM me on Twitter.