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Here’s an insider secret for anyone who wants the Spoon to cover their food tech startup.
Shoot something into space.
For real. We love space food here and are always on the lookout for startups that are blasting off both literally and figuratively.
This weekend was a big one for celestial food stuff as a rocket carrying wine and what is essentially a space-y bake oven docked with the International Space Station (ISS).
French startup Space Cargo Unlimited sent the wine, which sadly the astronauts won’t be able to imbibe. Rather, the wine will just sit in the ISS and astronauts will monitor the effects space radiation and a constant state of free-falling (not zero gravity) has on the beverage’s aging process. When the samples return to earth in 12 months, they will be compared with control samples kept here on terra firma.
On the more tech-y engineering side is Zero G Kitchen’s oven. Obvi if you’re floating in space you can just set cookies on a tray and slide them into an oven. They too, would float around and make a mess. Zero G Kitchen’s solution is suspending the cookie in a silicone pouch wrapped in an aluminum frame. The pouch has micro-pores to let heat and water escape, while the frame keeps it in place inside the oven.
While all this stuff is geeky and cool, it’s easy to think that instead of aging wine in space, that money might be better spent helping more immediate problems like developing plastic alternatives and solving food inequality.
I can’t argue with that, and only offer that two things can be true at the same time. Yes, more money and energy should go into solving those very real world problems, and maybe developing technologies for the most extremes of space can help us discover practical solutions for our earthbound dilemmas.
Regardless, if space is the place for your food tech startup, you should definitely launch it on The Spoon.
Food delivery isn’t an easy gig
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for food delivery. After reporting weak earnings last week, Grubhub’s stock tanked. Over the weekend, Instacart Shoppers (the workers who actually get the groceries and deliver it) called for a three-day strike over the company’s pay structure. And yesterday, while Uber Eats grew, Uber overall reported more than a billion dollars in losses.
As the food delivery industry matures, we’re seeing a number of factors crash into one big, complicated mess that are casting a pall over the sector.
First, there’s a ton of well-funded competition (Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, etc.), driving prices down in a race to grab consumers who, according to Grubhub, aren’t loyal to any one particular delivery brand. Add to that the lackluster performance of Uber post-IPO that is also turning off Wall Street and forcing delivery company Postmates to delay its IPO.
Meal delivery companies are also facing pressure from their restaurant partners, who are tired of paying exorbitant commissions to these delivery services. As my colleague Jenn Marston points out, restaurants are pulling some elements of delivery in-house to gain more control over their operations and branding.
As I noted above, delivery services are also facing internal pressures from the people who do the actual delivery work. This is the fourth consecutive year that Instacart Shoppers have instigated a walkout, while DoorDash and Postmates have had to deal with their own workers protesting unfair payment structures.
Finally, gig economy companies like the ones listed here face legal pressures from local governments. California passed AB 5, which looks to reclassify gig workers as employees, and New York is looking at a similar law. Uber and the like aren’t fond of these laws and are spending big money to fight them.
All this is to say that while 2019 was a year of tumult for third-party food delivery companies, 2020 is shaping up to be a year of reckoning and shakeout.
Get smarter about food tech, binge watch SKS videos
Finally, if you are looking for a new show to binge and you want to get smarter about food tech while doing so, may we recommend firing up the videos from our Smart Kitchen Summit 2019?
There was a ton of great talks, fireside chats and presentations from our conference last month and we’ve been furiously posting them online. Line ’em up and watch ’em all on The Spoon’s YouTube channel today.