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The new Tesla Cybertruck is a polarizing vehicle. People seem to either really like or hate the triangle-shaped truck. (I’m squarely in the like side because I’ve always wanted a vehicle from Megaforce.) Tesla CEO Elon Musk is definitely a polarizing figure in his own right, but between electric cars, solar powered roof tiles, and hyperloops, Musk isn’t waiting patiently for the future to arrive. He’s shooting it full of harpoons and trying to drag it towards us right now.
I thought of Mr. Musk when I read about Blue Bottle Coffee’s big announcement last week that the coffee company was trying to make its locations have zero waste by the end of 2020. Not 2024 or 2022. But twelve months from now.
As my colleague Jenn Marston wrote, Blue Bottle is achieving this by having people bring in their own containers for coffee beans, their own reusable cups for coffee (or pay a “modest deposit” for one of Blue Bottles reusable cups), and packaging grab and go items in reusable containers.
This is a bold move that even Blue Bottle’s CEO concedes is risky. In a blog post last week announcing the change, Bryan Meehan wrote: “We are proud to announce an experiment that may not work, that may cost us money, and that may make your life a little more complicated.”
Good for him for not sugar-coating this experiment. Also kudos for pushing the plastic-free movement forward. Big companies have been doing little things to reduce their plastic waste output over the past year: Burger King phased out cheap toys in kids meals in the U.K., Live Nation banned single-use plastics at music festivals, and Ben & Jerry’s eliminated single-use plastic cups and spoons.
But Blue Bottle is going one step further and actually “inconveniencing” its customers by pulling them out of their normal routine. As Jenn wrote, the result could wind up being that busy people get pissed and take off for Starbucks. But I’m hopeful that people and other businesses will be inspired by Blue Bottle’s actions, and buy a Cybertruck-load of coffee from them.
RIP Consumer Sous Vide?
Spoon Founder Mike Wolf broke the news last Friday that Nomiku, one of the early pioneers of the home sous vide movement, was shutting down all operations.
Last year Nomiku had pivoted from a hardware company to become a meal delivery service that used the company’s sous vide technology. But while growth in that sector was strong, it wasn’t enough.
As Mike pointed out, Nomiku’s demise isn’t an isolated incident:
The exit of Nomiku from the market marks the end of what has been a fairly rough of couple years for the first wave of startups in the connected cooking market. Sansaire, which started around the same time as Nomiku, shut down in February of 2018. Hestan Cue, maker of a guided cooking system, downsized its team in April, and just a few weeks later ChefSteps, another sous vide startup, had to layoff a significant portion of its team before it got acquired by Breville.
The bloom is definitely off the consumer sous vide rose at this point. The only question is whether the carnage will continue and expand into other parts of the connected cooking appliance market in 2020.
The Year in Kitchen Tech Crowdfunding
Speaking of hardware: If you are an entrepreneur looking to crowdfund an idea, may we suggest creating some gadget around beverages? I took a look back at our 2019 coverage of Kickstarter projects and there were five drink-related projects that crowdfunded more than $100,000 this year:
Mosi Tea mobile tea brewer – $458,200
uKeg Nitro cold brew coffee maker – $643,498
Stasis Glycol homebrew chiller – $184,369
Travel Decanter cocktail tumblers – $377,071
Ode coffee grinder – $609,094 (with 55 days to go in the campaign)
However, it hasn’t been all good news for the companies that made a bunch a moola on Kickstarter. Mosi Tea will miss its Dec. ship date, Stasis has encountered production issues, and some people who have received their Travel Decanters have complained about it leaking.
Crowdfunding food tech will surely continue through the next year. Hopefully those inspired by the Kickstarter successes will learn from the crowdfunding failures.