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One of the things I learned in my past life as a digital TV market analyst was this: it takes a while to bring an ecosystem together.
Back in the early and mid-2000s when I was writing about how the Internet would transform TV entertainment, we were stuck in an era still defined by a PC-centric oligopoly from the 90s which viewed the world as if the IoT and mobile computing revolutions were not just around the corner.
But as it turns out, Apple, Amazon and Netflix were indeed waiting to revolutionize TV watching, and it wasn’t all that surprising most people didn’t ultimately choose a Windows machine as their primary living room entertainment center.
Which brings us to the kitchen. Back at the first Smart Kitchen Summit, I brought up the TV market as an interesting case study for the future of the kitchen, partly because it seemed like it could foretell some of the issues the industry would face as it underwent a large-scale transition to digital technology. It was early days, and the challenges facing food and cooking digitization are indeed different than that of TV, but I knew then understanding how to get different parts of an ecosystem – creators, distribution, hardware manufacturers, retailers – to work together was something the industry needed to think about.
As we look at where the smart kitchen revolution is today, it turns out these different players across the ecosystem are starting to do exactly that. While industry fragmentation remains a problem, the pieces are being put in place as connected appliance makers work with software platform providers and, more recently, big food starts to consider their place as the meal journey becomes disrupted through technology.
The most recent example of this is Innit’s deal with Tyson. Tyson is massive, responsible for one in five pounds of meat to consumer homes in the US, and while they’ve dabbled in the future kitchen space through their investment arm, the company has been pretty quiet in the connected kitchen.
While it’s only a demo, the news that Innit will help Tyson potentially power digital cooking experiences is timely. We have Google seeding the market with their updated Google Assistant platform through smart display partners (and Amazon adding more robust Alexa visual skill toolsets). We have appliance makers rolling out new lines of connected appliances that can enable digitized cooking experiences such as guided cooking and multi-step automated recipes. In-field software upgrades are adding completely new features, including entirely new cooking functionality through software.
Bottom line: connecting appliances through software platforms, while not easy, is not unlike what happened with TV. Add more processing power and connectivity, and before long you have a foundation for new experiences and services. But still, integrating the actual food into the future kitchen is where the rubber meets (or meats) the road, and while it’s still early days, it feels like the ecosystem is starting to come together.
Speaking of the smart kitchen, one of the nice side-effects of a digital kitchen — at least for food companies and retailers — is all that data. Being able to make connections that weren’t immediately obvious is much easier in the era of connected kitchens, online shopping and digital retail.
That said, it’s undeniable that magical accidents often lead to some our best creations. One example of that is the story behind Pop Rocks, where legendary food scientist Bill Mitchell figured out that when you combine sugar with carbon dioxide, it pops in your mouth.
So what happens to these happy accidents in the world of data-driven decision making? That’s what I looked at about earlier this week when I wrote about how Mars used data from Alibaba to conceive of a spicy Snickers bar and whether that is how new products will come to market in the future.
One of my favorite things about SKS is having companies I’ve read about come and tell their stories in person. Zimplistic’s Rotimatic is one of those companies, and their story is particularly interesting to me given the challenges faced early on by Pranoti Israni, the inventor of the roti robot. Recently Israni shared an anecdote about how she faced inherent bias as a female founder. Hers is a cool story about a resourceful founder, and it with me as a dad of a young girl who has entertained getting more involved in STEM programs like robotics at her school.
There’s lots more news and analysis from this week, including a massive investment by Softbank into Zume, to essentially create a full-stack food-delivery platform, an $11 million round for smart garden startup Click & Grow (including investment from IKEA’s largest retail group) and Jenn Marston asking whether the age of the vegan butcher is here.
Lastly, we’re busy preparing for a big foodtech event at CES called FoodTech Live. If you want to show your product off in front of hundreds of journalists and influencers, make sure to fill out this form and we’ll get back to you.
Have a great weekend,
In the 11/02/2018 edition:
By Michael Wolf on Nov 02, 2018 08:28 am
By selling one in every five pounds of chicken, beef or pork in the US, it’s safe to say that Tyson Foods is responsible for a whole bunch of the food that goes onto consumer plates. And now, if smart kitchen platform company Innit has its way, consumers will soon be cooking all that meat [
By Chris Albrecht on Nov 02, 2018 07:29 am
Softbank is investing $375 million into food delivery and logistics company, Zume, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal. Softbank is also expected to invest another round of $375 million into Zume at a later date. We had heard rumblings about this deal earlier this year, and The Journal got the news […]
By Jennifer Marston on Nov 01, 2018 11:44 am
Just a couple weeks after launching Square Terminal, its new all-in-one payment device, Square today announced via press release an update that integrates that hardware with its restaurant POS system, Square for Restaurants. By combining the two, Square hopes to speed up the process for guests when it’s time to pay the bill and save […]
By Chris Albrecht on Nov 01, 2018 10:16 am
When Pilotworks abruptly shut down last month, arguably the bigger story was not the closure itself but the number of startups left in the lurch by it. There were at least 175 food businesses at Pilotworks sites that suddenly had to scramble to save their ingredients from spoiling, find a new kitchen space to work […]
By Jennifer Marston on Nov 01, 2018 08:09 am
In a move to further enhance its delivery strategy, Pizza Hut unveiled a “mobile pizza factory” this week that could potentially be as cool as the name makes it sound. Dubbed the Tundra PIE Pro, the pizza-making truck, which Pizza Hut created with Toyota, made its first public appearance at Toyota’s 2018 Specialty Equipment Market […]
By Chris Albrecht on Oct 31, 2018 04:00 pm
Whenever I need to buy something — well, anything really — the first place I turn is The Wirecutter. From big-screen TVs to blenders, I’ve never been disappointed by something the review site has recommended. So when The Wirecutter ran its meal kit recommendations today, I knew it would be worth reading.
By Jennifer Marston on Oct 31, 2018 02:00 pm
Much is written nowadays about meal kits, an industry that’s had its fair share of ups and downs in the last few years. Less talked about is what goes on behind the scenes at the fulfillment centers where meal kits are prepped and assembled, a topic UC Berkeley shed a lot of light on yesterday
By Michael Wolf on Oct 31, 2018 11:40 am
Estonian smart-garden startup Click & Grow announced this week it has raised $11 million to help accelerate growth for its hyperlocal grow systems into new markets. Investors in this round include two strategic corporate investors in Swedish holding company Ingka Group (which owns and operates the majority of IKEA stores) and French conglomerate Groupe SEB, as […]
By Chris Albrecht on Oct 31, 2018 09:00 am
Deliv, the appropriately named same day delivery service, announced today that it has closed a $40 million Series C round that includes Google as an investor. This brings the total amount raised by Deliv to $80.4 million. Founded in 2012, Deliv provides crowdsourced, same-day shipping services for more than 5,000 retailers including Walmart, FreshDirect and […]
By Chris Albrecht on Oct 31, 2018 07:00 am
Starship announced today that it’s four-wheeled robots now autonomously deliver packages to people at their home and work, in a move that pushes the company beyond food delivery and more into everyday use. The new service makes Starship something of a middleman in the delivery process. Users download the Starship app and when ordering something […]