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One of my favorite things about tech is that it starts a lot of debate. Even within our small team here at The Spoon, we’re constantly on different pages about what’s groundbreaking and what’s just hype, whether something’s progressive or just invasive, how to spell the phrase “food tech.”

So when it came time to put together our annual Food Tech 25 list, which dropped yesterday, you can bet it took a whole lot of discussion to whittle the entire food industry down to just 25 companies.

As we always do, though, the Spoon team — Mike Wolf, Chris Albrecht, Catherine Lamb, and myself — managed to compile a list of companies we individually and collectively, believe are truly impacting the human relationship to food. That impact takes many forms, from the way Creator makes it possible for humans and robots to coexist in the kitchen to Yo-Kai’s vending machine of the future to Goodr’s efforts to use tech to keep food out of the trash and redistribute it to those in need.

I’m hoping readers enjoy this list, but I’m also hoping it sparks some healthy dispute, too. Who else should be on the list? For that matter, who shouldn’t, and why? We encourage you to email us with any additions, subtractions, rants and raves on the matter.

And, most important, congratulations to the companies who made it on this list!

Image via Unsplash.

Drive-Thru Tech Moves Into the Fast Lane

One area of food tech that’s going to raise many more questions over the next few years is the QSR drive-thru. Specifically, how AI is changing the drive-thru and what that means for both restaurant operators and customers.

We’ve been following closely the story behind McDonald’s acquisition of Dynamic Yield, a New Zealand-based AI company whose tech has already been rolled out to almost 1,000 Mickey D’s drive-thru lanes. Then, this week, Clinc, best known for its work in the financial sector, announced a new funding round that will allow the company to expand into other markets with QSR drive-thrus at the top of the list.

Clinc’s using AI-powered voice controls to facilitate more natural conversation between the customer and the ordering system in the hopes of making the drive-thru experience smoother and faster. Drive-thru order times are much longer than they used to be, and companies are betting AI will speed up the order process by making it more accurate and also making more personalized recommendations, like immediately suggesting a pastry to someone when they place their morning coffee order. There are even companies working on making those recommendations not just in real time but also based on existing customer data. One such company is 5thru, which does away with voice altogether by scanning your license plate number, which is attached to a profile stored with the restaurant and can make real-time recommendations based on your existing preferences and order history attached to that license plate number. Cue progressive-versus-creepy debate.

Join the Conversation at The Spoon’s New Food Tech Fireside Event

As much as we value the sound of our own voices over here, though, we actually want to hear more from readers on their thoughts around tech. That’s why we started a new online event, The Spoon’s Food Tech Firesides. Every month, we’ll hold a virtual sit down with one or two food industry innovators and invite the audience to join in the talk via written questions.

First up will be Tessa Price of WeWork Food Labs and Peter Bodenheimer from Food-X talking about food accelerators: what they are, what they’re not, and which companies and entrepreneurs should consider them as a path towards growth.

The event takes place May 30 at 10:00 a.m. PDT/1:00 p.m. EDT. Catch the full details here, and be sure to register early, as there’s limited space available.

May your week be filled with lively debate.

Onwards,

Jenn

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