At the Smart Kitchen Summit {SKS} 2018, Bill Birgen got up onstage during the Startup Showcase and started talking about a problem that many of us have struggled with: soggy delivery french fries.

“We’ve all experienced the disappointment of food delivery, when our food arrives after being ravaged — ravaged I say — by the horror of condensation,” he said. Annoyed by the severe drop in quality of certain foods during delivery, Birgen, a former rocket scientist, decided to create a technology that would keep food crisp, fresh, and decidedly not soggy while en route to your home. Thus his company, Soggy Food Sucks, was born.

Birgen won the 2018 Startup Showcase. This year he will return to the SKS stage as a speaker to talk about how he’s rethinking food packaging in the age of delivery. To whet your appetite, we sat down with Birgen to do a quick Q&A. Check it out below then be sure to snag your tickets to SKS before they sell out!

You won the SKS Startup Showcase last year with your startup Soggy Food Sucks (congrats!). Tell us more about it.
The 2018 SKS was the first time I had presented my idea in public. Prior to presenting, I was so filled with tremendous apprehension regarding how my invention would be received. Condensation in food delivery is a gap and a pain that I had never heard anyone complain about. The response from the SKS audience and judges were sources of tremendous validation. Winning SKS and subsequent food industry events is an ongoing source of encouragement and motivation. It all started at SKS 2018. I’m really looking forward to returning to SKS 2019, this time as a member of the broader food industry fraternity and less as the dark horse outsider.

Looking back I can say I am happy with how succinctly I managed to describe the thermodynamic mechanisms, and the condensation nuances surrounding my product. in my 2018 SKS Showcase presentation. I had a few coaches help with my presentation, but in the end, I largely ignored their advice. The advice I kept receiving was to tell a story and avoid being overly technical. For me to be authentic meant being technical. While I didn’t tell a story in a traditional sense, I do feel I was able to be engaging and dare I say entertaining. The Facebook Live stream that I shared online has thousands of view. SKS was fantastic exposure.

Has anything changed for your company since you won the Showcase?
Immediately following SKS2018 TechStars offered me a position in their upcoming accelerator. I did not realize what a huge opportunity TechStars was. Naively, I turned down TechStars, with the expectation that I would be selected as one of the eight startups for Chipotle’s first ever accelerator. When I was not accepted into Chipotle’s accelerator I continued forward, bootstrapping as I had before.

The product itself has recently been redesigned for aesthetics and re-branded as SAVR-pak. The first automated, real production inventory has been received at our distribution facility. Deliveroo has placed a purchase order. GrubHub, and Door Dash cannot be far behind. Marina Bay Sands, Wynn Casinos, Disney and Virgin hotels have all reached out for product and demonstrations. Cambro wants a larger size product that will integrate seamlessly with their larger food delivery platforms.

Subsequent patents have been filed in an adjacent food packaging space. The focus of this new product being the elimination of frost inside frozen food packaging. One of the largest fresh fish processor in Hong Kong has adopted this new anti-frost packaging product.

Think big: How do you envision your technology changing the food delivery experience?
B2C is a massive market that I plan on addressing a year or two down the road, due to the scale of the education and marking required. I will let the public become familiar with seeing my SAVR-pak in food delivery and catering applications before putting it on the shelf at supermarkets, next to cellophane sandwich bags and brown paper lunch bags.

The goal all along of my humble invention was to create a higher expectation for food quality, when it comes to food delivery and storage. Delivering food that is fresher, means less food will be discarded. Aesthetically, it is so much more appealing to open a container sans hundreds of water droplets clinging to every surface. So much of our food experience is aesthetics and perception. Soggy Food Sucks has introduced the SAVR-pak to help with food quality and to reduce waste.

What’s the absolute worst food to eat soggy?
By far the resounding answer from the food delivery industry is French fries. This perspective is biased in my opinion, by the pervasiveness of French fries on our menus. I would challenge this obvious answer, and say spinach salad is the worst soggy food. The spinach leaf has a delicate structure that is quickly compromised by condensation. The result is not just soggy but limp and even slimy spinach, which is wholly inedible. A salad that has been touched by condensation cannot be eaten.

Keep an eye out for more speaker Q&A’s as we ramp up to our fifth year of SKS on October 7-8 in Seattle! We hope to see you there.

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