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In sci-fi movies, pods are typically something to be feared (see: Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). But when it comes to food delivery, pods are something we should welcome with open arms.
When I talk about pods here, I’m referring to a cabinet of internet-connected cubbies that hold delivered meals and can be unlocked by the recipient’s own mobile phone.
I expect we’ll see delivery pods like these in more apartment and residential buildings because of the convenience they offer. With pods, a customer doesn’t need to wait around until the exact moment a delivery driver drops off their order. Instead, the driver places the food inside the insulated cubby and the customer simply receives a notification on their phone that the meal has arrived. The driver saves time, since they don’t have to hunt around a complex for an apartment number, and the customer gets the added convenience of being able to pick up their meal whenever they are able to.
In a move that underscores the growing popularity of this delivery-pods-for-apartments concept, Minnow just announced $2.2 million in seed funding for its delivery pod solutions. One of the investors was the venture arm of the Lincoln Property Company, which owns residential buildings in 28 states. It’s not hard to connect the dots and see Minnow pods popping up in all those Lincoln buildings.
The idea of a dedicated delivery locker-type service certainly isn’t new. Two years ago Alibaba showed off temperature-controlled lockers that are installed outside an individual apartment to accept food deliveries. (While insulated, Minnow pods are not temperature controlled.)
But given the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of all things contactless when it comes to food is getting accelerated. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Minnow scale up quickly, and other players jump into the space.
While the pandemic could fuel the biggest growth for delivery pods, it could also be the biggest hurdle to pod adoption. As restaurants shutter and companies realize work can be done remotely, people are leaving big cities. Anecdotally speaking, I’ve heard from friends in San Francisco about apartment buildings becoming ghost towns, to mix my metpahors, as people either can’t afford or want to escape high rent prices.
Having said that, people will always live in apartment buildings, even if they aren’t in the heart of the city. So there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for pods to become a table stakes benefit for apartment dwellers.
Still, it’s probably a good idea to avoid pods stacked in the back of pickup trucks and found on outer planets.
Spoon Founder Braves Ice Cream Tasting
Let’s keep with the sci-fi theme and move from pod people to a robot. A Brave Robot, to be specific. That’s the name of Perfect Day’s spinoff ice cream brand.
Perfect Day recreates dairy proteins in the lab by genetically modifying microflora and… well, let’s not fall down a casein and whey rabbit hole here. It’s ice cream! It should be fun, especially with a name like Brave Robot. So how is it? Spoon Founder, Mike Wolf, received a batch and wrote up a review for us, saying about the PB N’ Fudge flavor:
Any combo of peanut butter and chocolate usually can’t miss, so that’s where I started. It didn’t disappoint. The thick veins of fudge and peanut butter were as yummy as they sound, and maybe more importantly, the science-forward ice cream didn’t taste weird, or well, science-y, at all.
Yay science for not tasting so science-y! Check out the full review of all the flavors Mike tried. (spoiler: They were all great!)
Yo-Kai Express Sweetens Its Menu
While we’re on the subject of dessert, Yo-Kai Express, which makes (delicious) ramen dispensing vending machines, is adding a frozen sweet treat to its menu.
Company Founder and CEO, Andy Lin, wrote on LinkedIn earlier this week that Yo-Kai will soon offer a “Himalayan salt whip cream with brown sugar boba black milk tea” snow ice. The dessert will be available “soon” through both Yo-Kai’s vending machines and its mail-order meal kits.
While I’m a sucker for pretty much anything boba-related, I bring this news up because it marks another expansion for Yo-Kai. Over the past six months the company has started selling meal kits so you can make ramen at home, and is now getting into desserts.
Just like yo-kais themselves, who knows what will pop up for Lin and Co. next.
Japan Food Tech Mini-Event
Speaking of popping up, The Spoon crew — Mike, Jenn and myself — will all be hosting chats during the Virtual Food Tech Mini Summit this Friday. The event is done in conjunction with our Japanese partners who help us product the Smart Kitchen Summit Japan.
Starting at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, there will be three discussions:
- Food and Kitchen After the Pandemic, hosted by myself and featuring Robin Liss of Suvie, Kevin Yu of Sidechef and Masa Fukata of Panasonic
- Jenn’s discussion on the future of restaurant
- Mike’s panel on the future of cultured meat
Sign up and save your spot today!