On Friday, The Spoon’s very own Mike Wolf got the scoop that home brewing appliance maker, PicoBrew, was in receivership and being put up for sale.
Read Mike’s full story for all the details, but the TL;DR version: PicoBrew was going after a lot of different markets including both home and professional beer brewing, cold brew coffee and even spirits aging. All of which added up to a complex cap table, and none of which added up to a breakthrough business.
But perhaps more interesting is that PicoBrew is the latest in a long line of crowdfunded beer brewing devices that didn’t make it as an independent, ongoing concern. HOPii, iGulu, and Brewbot, all promised to make beer brewing easy for the masses, and all are gone.
To be fair, those other devices never really got out of the starting gate. HOPii ran into legal trouble before going into production, iGulu ran into a string of problems during production, and Brewbot reportedly only made a few units before it ran out of money.
PicoBrew, on the other hand, had always been a gold standard for crowdfunded hardware. The company raised millions and actually delivered their products (they even canceled the Pico U crowdfunding because it wasn’t trending as well as previous campaigns).
So the question becomes, is the home beer making appliance market dead? If PicoBrew can’t make it work on its own, can anyone? We’ll definitely be watching BEERMKR more closely now. That company had already delayed shipping its product by more than a year, and now the Coronavirus epidemic in China could delay it even further.
The one reason to hold out hope for BEERMKR, however, is that it is a more open platform than the PicoBrew. Initially, the PicoBrew required PicoPaks of ingredients to make beer, something the company later relented on and opened up. From the get-go BEERMKR lets you add your own ingredients, not locking the user into a particular eco-system.
The MiniBrew is another appliance making a go of it. That company raised €2.6M in funding at the end of 2018, and has been shipping across Europe since then. The company has set a target of 2020 to enter the U.S. market, so we’ll be keeping eyes on them as well.
But independent home brewing companies will face pressure from another side as LG has its own beer brewing appliance, which it showed off at IFA last year. However, LG’s Homebrew wasn’t on display at CES, so who knows how much emphasis it’s putting on the device. But with its combination of sales channel and marketing muscle, will LG’s mere presence prevent more hardware startups from entering the beer making biz?
Who knows? Perhaps LG or some other consumer appliance company will swoop in and buy PicoBrew’s assets and the device will live on. If that happens, The Spoon will be working hard to get that scoop.
The coronavirus’ impact on food tech
Let’s just start this by saying that the deadly coronavirus epidemic is frightening in just about every conceivable manner. And while there are far more important ramifications about the disease, for our purposes, it’s worth taking a moment to see how it is impacting the business of food tech.
We haven’t heard from any big food tech companies specifically, but manufacturing is impacting production of all kinds tech companies like Nintendo, Apple and Tesla. It’s a safe bet that food-related consumer electronics companies won’t be immune from this.
As noted above, the outbreak is delaying the production of some Kickstarter projects, and hopefully those campaigns raised enough money to weather this crisis.
We’ve also seen how food delivery is adapting when there is a fear of human to human contact. Robots are being used to deliver food to people stranded in a quarantine hotel in Hangzhou, China. Each floor has its own robot that runs down the hallway announcing itself, as people wearing surgical masks pop out to retrieve food off the bot.
Elsewhere, KFC and Pizza Hut are employing a contactless method of food delivery. Human delivery drivers get their temperature taken before they depart, wear a surgical map and drop food off at an outside spot. The driver sets the food down and stays ten feet away from the recipient while the food is picked up. Hands and delivery boxes are disinfected after each delivery.
Looking ahead, it’s worth thinking about how this pandemic could permanently alter the delivery business in China and elsewhere. Will this accelerate more autonomous delivery vehicles a la Starship and Kiwi? Will sterilization protocols become de rigeur for any delivery vehicle? Will there be greater adoption of external, temperature controlled delivery lockers that sit outside apartments and houses?
Hopefully the spread of corona will subside soon, so we can start to answer these questions.
Customize is coming! Get your ticket today!
Hard to believe, but Customize, our food personalization summit is almost here! Happening February 27 in New York City, we have put together a stellar lineup of speakers including:
- Scott Wu, CTO, Compass Group, will be talking about the impact of personalization on food service and restaurants.
- Brian Kathmann, Dir., Commercial Platforms, Healthcare – 84.51° Kroger will be talking about the early results from the big grocery store’s entry into food as medicine
- Dr. Sherry Zhang, CEO, GenoPalate, will be talking about how our DNA could shape personalized food choices
- Josh Baillon, Digital Innovation Manager, Nestlé, will be discussing some of the key considerations for a big CPG as they create a personalized food business
Tickets are going fast, so you’ll want to make sure you have a spot at the table. Use the special Spoon subscriber discount code THESPOON15 for a 15% discount off your tickets.