When Weber announced this week that it was acquiring smart oven maker, June, my first thought was — phew.
There was relief in knowing that June, the company, wasn’t going under any time soon, so my family will continue to enjoy June, the oven, for the foreseeable future. Instead of being a scrappy startup and dealing with issues like funding, scaling and exits, June now enjoys the deep pockets and vast sales network of grilling giant, Weber. In other words, June lives on and my smart oven won’t get bricked.
At least I hope not.
Acquisitions can get weird and who knows what Weber has in store for June, or how those plans will change. An old saw in business acquisitions is that companies don’t fully realize what they’ve bought until six months after the deal is closed.
Anyway, after the initial wave of relief, my thoughts turned to the countertop smart oven market in general, a category that still quite young. After all, June launched its first gen oven in December of 2016, which isn’t that long ago. But Weber buying June is the second major acquisition in the space since then. Brava, which started shipping its oven that cooks with light in November of 2018, was acquired by Middleby in November of 2019. Even Anova, which only launched its first smart oven last year, is owned by Electrolux.
Suvie positions itself more as a kitchen robot, in part because it doesn’t just re-heat food, it also keeps it cold and times the cooking to fit your schedule. Tovala raised $20 million and saw its business accelerate last year, thanks in part to the pandemic keeping people at home. It also doesn’t hurt that the company has has a low price point ($300) for its oven.
Anova is certainly pushing its steam-sous vide cooking as a differentiator rather than any “smart” capabilities as it enters the market. At $599 it’s not cheap per se, but Anova is promising more professional grade cooking than it is high-tech, connected bells and whistles.
A couple of years back, I wondered which companies would survive the kitchen countertopocalypse. There were so many multi-purpose (June) and single-purpose (Rotimatic) smart countertop devices coming to market that the average kitchen just doesn’t have the space to support them all. The field would winnow down, especially because some of these countertop ovens are big and take up a lot of space.
At the same time the countertop oven space is consolidating, we’re starting to see key smart features being added to traditional built-in ovens from the big players. At CES 2019, Whirlpool showed off its KitchenAid Smart Oven+, which featured automated cook programs. LG debuted an oven at CES this year that featured an Air Sous Vide setting.
The countertop smart oven space won’t disappear completely. The smaller size and cooking cavity can make preparing meals easier than firing up the gigantic built-in oven. And because they are cheaper than built-ins and don’t require installation, countertop ovens can be fertile territory for innovation. So the field is ripe for a new wave of startups to create and launch new cooking technology on a smaller scale. If that tech catches on with consumers, a bigger appliance company will acquire that startup and the cycle continues. And the industry as a whole can find relief in that.