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The Spoon team descended on Vegas last week to try and find all the food and kitchen tech we could lay our hands on. We also held our second annual FoodTech Live event because, well, we’re lazy and we wanted the food tech to come to us.
And now that we’re back in the snowy foothills of the Pacific Northwest, the Spoon team had some time put our thoughts about the tech expo together, record a podcast, and decipher what it all means.
So here it is, our CES Food Tech wrapup. I’ve got kitchen tech covered below, then Catherine looks at Impossible Pork and what else she saw on the fake meat front, and finally Chris gives his thoughts on robots and kitchens coming out of what has been an eventful couple weeks in that space.
Kitchen Tech at CES
Because I’ve gone to CES more times than I could count, I’ve gotten pretty good at searching out what matters to me the most so as to make productive use of my time. That’s always been a challenge in food tech since CES and its exhibitors have largely ignored the category. But that all changed this year because of what happened last year: The launch of the Impossible Burger 2.0.
And while fake meat is a long ways from a smart oven or a food robot, I think having the food tech unicorn choose CES as its venue to launch its new products has just given momentum to everything food-related, included the future kitchen.
What did I see? Well, I wrote a deep dive full kitchen tech wrap-up report detailing everything kitchen tech at CES this year, but if you’re looking for the short-short of it here are the top takeaways:
Personalization is Impacting Everything, Even Physical Space
There’s no doubt, personalization is impacting everything in food (heck, it’s why we decided to have a dedicated event on it). But when it comes to personalization, we usually are talking recipes or diet plans, not physical space. GE wants to change that, and so they showed off an adaptable kitchen concept that personalizes the space depending on the needs of the individual.
Of course, there was also lots of meal planning and recipe personalization, as well as a couple startups like DNANudge and Sun Genomics looking to help you build meal journeys based on your personal biomarkers and DNA.
Food Waste Only Gets A Half-Nod
There were better and more capable smart fridges to help us take better inventory and there were smart pantries to help us keep track of our dry goods, but I didn’t see a whole lot of effort focused on helping us reduce consumer food waste. One company, however, that wanted to help us all get better at composting our food waste was Sepura Home, which had a good solution that integrated with your home disposal to route food waste to a composter and liquids down the drain.
Focus on Full Meal Journey Rather Than Point Solutions
When it comes to the smart home and connected kitchen, we’re used to seeing standalone technologies that show off a cutting edge new technology rather than a bigger solution tailored towards solving consumer problems. I think that’s starting to change, as companies like GE and Samsung showed off bigger ideas tailored towards helping people solve problems and connect the different parts of the meal journey.
There were so many drink tech offerings at CES it was hard to keep track. We wrote about the Matcha making machine, tried out the Spinn and saw new beer-making robots. We even checked out a new seltzer machine that is targeting reducing plastic waste in hotels and homes.
Being a kitchen tech nerd, I have to admit it was cool have the guy who basically invented the home sous vide circulator give me a walkthrough of the Anova Precision Oven (you can listen along to Scott Heimendinger’s guided tour here.) We also took a look at the Julia multicooker here.
Once again, check out my full kitchen tech wrapup for CES 2020 here. But first, see what Catherine has to say about fake meat this year at CES…
I came into CES especially excited about one thing: Impossible Foods’ press event. The company had teased something major on Twitter, so I guessed we would see a new product — probably pork or chicken. And pork it was!
We got to taste the faux pork in a number of applications and it was juicy and fatty, though slightly more neutral-tasting than traditional pork — a great blank canvas for a number of porky recipes. If you’re feeling FOMO right now, don’t sweat it — you can soon you can sample the faux pork for yourself in the Impossible Croissan’wich, featuring Impossible’s plant-based pork sausage, which is rolling out in select Burger King locations this month.
While eating a bao stuffed with plant-based pork, I couldn’t help but wonder — what will be the next food to make a splash at CES? Last year Impossible stirred up a lot of attention when it won the Best of the Best award from Endgadget, even though it was the first edible food company to show at the tech expo. Now that the company has proven that food is, in fact, technology, it has opened up the door for more food companies to make a splash at CES.
One company to keep an eye on is Dutch startup Meatable. The cultured meat startup, which is growing pork muscle and fat cells outside of the animal, actually had its own small booth at CES this year. They didn’t have any of their actual meat on display, but Meatable’s CEO Krijn De Nood told me that they were hoping to bring cell-based pork samples to Vegas in 2021 for a limited taste test. They plan to start selling the pork on a large scale — pending regulatory approval — by 2025.
I guess that means we’ll have to start building up an appetite for CES 2021.
Other cool stuff I saw (and tasted) on the CES show floor:
- Waste reduction technology geared towards corporate and university cafeterias.
- Lots of liquid tech: a modular large-scale home brew system, water coolers that make H20 from thin air, a matcha-making robot and a waste-free DIY seltzer machine that can also add flavors.
- Digital noses, from Stratuscent and Aryballe, that can “smell” to determine if milk is spoiled or your meal is about to burn.
- DNANudge, a guided nutrition app that helps you grocery shop based on your DNA.
|Food Robots: Do We Need Them?|
While Chris wasn’t able to get around CES this year (save for our event FoodTech Live), he was watching for food robots and saw buzz around quite a few:
I was unable to attend CES this year, and as such, I missed a bunch of robot stuff. LG showed off a mock restaurant with a robot cooking food and making pourover coffee. Samsung demoed a concept robot that was billed as an “extra set of hands” in the kitchen that could grab items, pour oil and even wield a knife. IRobot, maker of the Roomba vacuum announced it too was developing robotic arms to load dishes or carry food to the table. And of course, who could forget the robot that makes raclette melted cheese.
But in the end, he started to wonder: Do we need these more advanced robots in the consumer kitchen? …my initial response to robot arms swerving around a kitchen is why? Are these robotic ambitions the best way to gain greater convenience in the kitchen, or do they just make things more complicated? Let’s acknowledge that there are definite use cases for robotic arms to help those with disabilities or who are otherwise movement impaired. The University of Washington is working on a voice-controlled robot that can feed people who need such assistance. And researching how robots interact with odd-shaped and often fragile objects like food can help the robotics industry overall. That’s one of the reasons Sony teamed up with Carnegie Mellon to develop food robots, and why Nvidia built a full kitchen to train its robots. But in our homes, and especially smaller apartments with even smaller kitchens, robot arms seem like more of a menace than a help, taking up space and potentially getting in the way. A case of futuristic form over function.
You can read Chris’s full piece about the robotic consumer kitchen and where he thinks it’s all going here.