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You know how last week felt like it dragged on forever? Well, food tech companies sure made up for that lost time, because once Monday hit, our desk was pelted with a flurry of announcements.
One food tech area that was particularly busy this week (and it’s only Wed.), was grocery delivery. More specifically, grocery delivery via robots. Now, I’m using the word “robot” a little loosely here, but mostly that’s because it packs a little more punch than saying “It’s been a big week for grocery delivery across a variety of different autonomous and remote controlled vehicle formats.”
Things kicked off on Monday with Nuro’s announcement that it had raised a $500 million Series C round of funding. Nuro makes the autonomous pod-like R2 vehicle that got the greenlight from the federal and California governments to operate on public roads. Nuro has been doing self-driving grocery delivery tests for biggies like Kroger and Walmart.
That news was followed on Tuesday when Self Point, a digital commerce platform for grocers, announced a partnership with Tortoise. Through the deal, Self Point’s retail customers will be able to offer grocery delivery via Tortoise’s teleoperated robots.
Walmart itself then jumped into the news cycle with the announcement that it has partnered with Cruise to pilot the use of that company’s electric, autonomous car fleet for grocery delivery in Scottsdale, AZ.
Now, each of these tests are small, so chances are good that you won’t see robots on your sidewalk anytime soon. But these stories, along with Starship’s recent launch at Save Mart in Modesto, CA, all illustrate how the use of robotics is being accelerated in grocery.
Grocery is actually a pretty good use case for robots. First, the pandemic’s continued presence has pushed record number of people to grocery shopping online. This in turn will spur an increase in grocery delivery. As we saw early on in the pandemic, it didn’t take much to overwhelm the delivery capacity for the likes of Amazon, Kroger and Fresh Direct. Having more delivery options like robots will give retailers more throughput.
Additionally, robots are good for grocery because speed is less of an issue. If you order a burrito or a latte for delivery, you want it as fast as possible. But if you’re stocking up for the week, scheduling your delivery out for later that same day or even the next day isn’t that big a deal.
As exciting as all this robo news is, it will still be a while before there are full-on fleets of robots bringing bags full of groceries to our front door. But as this week’s news shows — it won’t feel like forever before robots are here.
Will Biden Be a Food Tech President?
With the election (mostly) behind us, it’s time to think about what a Biden Administration could mean for the food tech industry. Spoon Founder Mike Wolf took some time to map out what the President Elect might do for food, and made a few suggestions, including the creation of a “Food Innovation Czar.” From Mike’s piece:
While “Czar” appointments in the U.S. government don’t usually mean they are heads of agencies, they often come with fairly broad administrative power. In fact, one of the first appointments of a Czar by the Republican party was a “Food Czar” that looked to put broad oversight power of food pricing during the Second World War.
What would a Food Innovation Czar do? They could focus on the current food system fragility, encourage the digitization of the food supply chain, and encourage legislation and funding for new food innovation initiatives. They would also help highlight innovative new approaches, organizations, and creators who are building food future and encourage private sector investment.
He also explores tax cuts for farmers to encourage the use of new technologies, an advisory council with food tech rock stars like Jennifer Doudna of CRISPR fame, and even installing a vertical farm at the White House.
You can see Mike’s full story here.
Zero Egg Raises $5M for Its Plant-Based Egg Product – The eggless egg product is made from pea protein and nutritional yeast and just launched in the U.S. last month.
Highpper Aims to Make Standalone Robot-Powered Restaurants-in-a-Box – The Israeli company says it will launch its first branded pizza robo-restaurant in June.
Beyond Q3 Earnings: The Company ‘Co-Created’ the McPlant, Will Launch Version 3.0 of Its Burger – It was a roller coaster couple of days for the plant-based burger giant as McDonald’s hemmed and hawed about who exactly will be supplying the McPlant.
Spyce Kitchen Relaunches with All New Robot Kitchen, Dynamic Menu and Delivery – The restaurant, now open in Boston, is built around a re-designed “Infinite Kitchen” robot.
McDonald’s Is the Latest QSR to Embrace the Drive-Thru-Centric Restaurant Format – McDonald’s unveiled a long-term growth strategy that includes a new loyalty program, more AI and machine learning in the drive-thru lane, and revamped formats for future locations.