At this year’s big tech show in Vegas, there was no shortage of food tech. Everything from Impossible Pork to robot cooking assistants were on display, and so after spending five days in the desert checking out the latest and greatest, here’s my wrap-up of everything I saw in kitchen tech at the show:
Lots of Smart Fridges
It may be hard to believe in 2020, but Internet connected fridges have been showing up at CES for two decades. Of course, with powerful machine vision and food inventory tracking systems, today’s smart fridges are a lot more useful than these attempts from yesteryear even if they’ve yet to be widely adopted.
Some of the companies showing off smart fridge tech at this year’s CES included LG, Samsung, Bosch and GE. Bosch showed off a two-camera smart fridge powered by Chefling, a partnership that shouldn’t be all that surprising given BSH Appliances’ investment in the smart kitchen software startup.
LG’s latest smart fridge, which includes the popular Instaview transparent front door feature, now reorders food when inventory gets low. Samsung’s latest smart fridges use Whisk technology (a company they acquired last year) to suggest recipes based off of your in-fridge inventory. Smarter was also in Vegas at FoodTech Live showing off their retrofit fridge cam.
Home Grow Systems Get a Look
For the first time at CES, big appliance brands showed interest in allowing home grow systems to take root in the kitchen. Both Samsung’s BeSpoke grow system and the LG’s system were evolved proof of concepts that utilized sensors and allowed the home gardener to monitor the status of their plants within the form factor of a standup fridge.
GE’s Home Grown took the home farm out of the fridge and made the entire kitchen a multilayered food grow system. You can watch a video of a booth demo of the concept below:
All of the grow systems on display by big appliance brands were more proof of concepts than shipping products. I’ll be interested to see if any of them roll out these products in the next year. Of all the systems, the Samsung Bespoke home grow systems seemed to be the closest to a market-ready product.
Intelligent And Adaptive Surfaces
One of the big trends sweeping food tech is personalization, so why not apply the principle of personalization to our physical space as well? GE did just that with a concept called Shift, an adaptable kitchen that, well, shifts to adapt to each person’s specific requirements. The idea isn’t new. The first winner of the Smart Kitchen Summit startup showcase, a German startup called Tielsa (now KimoCon), makes an app-controlled, adjustable kitchen platform that adjusts the height of the surface space to the specific user.
The Wireless Power Consortium had a full kitchen built out at CES 2020, showing off how their Ki kitchen standard using induction heating and wireless charging worked. Speaking of induction, one of the most innovative entries in intelligent surfaces at CES 2020 was from design firm GHSP, who showed off technology for a video-enabled induction cooktop. I know Americans are in love with their fire cooking, but hopefully new ideas like this will generate interest in what is clearly a superior (and flexible) technology in induction. You can check out a quick video of GHSP’s concept below:
Drink Tech Was EVERYWHERE
Drinks have always been a little easier to serve up in the future kitchen than cooking technology, and this year was no different as we saw well over a dozen next-gen beer, booze, coffee and tea machines sprinkled around the show floor.
On the booze front, CES 2020 had offerings from Drinkworks and Bartesian, while on the beerbot side, we saw offerings from PicoBrew, BEERMKR, MiniBrew and INTHEKEG to name a few. Noticeably absent was LG’s HomeBrew, the automated beer making appliance concept they debuted a year ago at CES 2019.
When it comes to coffee tech, longtime Spoon readers shouldn’t be surprised at my excitement over seeing a working production model of the Spinn coffee maker, a product I’ve been covering since I pre-ordered one way back in 2016 (we’ll have a video of the Spinn later this week). Terra Kaffe had a TK-01 on hand at FoodTech Live to demo the machine’s grind and brew (and milk frothing) capabilities, while MoJoe Brewing was showing off its portable coffee making system.
You can watch Chris’s interview with Spinn CEO Roderick de Rode and take a look inside the Spinn in the video below:
DNA & Microbiome Driven Diets
With DNA testing now fast and affordable, it’s not all that surprising to see offshoot concepts that capitalize on the information provided by a person’s profile. One of CES’s most buzzy startups in this space was DNANudge, a French company that is offering a wearable that tells a person whether that CPG product they picked up in the grocery store is a good fit for them. On the microbiome front, Sun Genomics was at FoodTech Live to show off its personalized microbiome kit.
Food Waste Reduction & Sustainability
One area that has traditionally lacked innovation is in the management of food waste in the home. While we still didn’t see a whole lot around food waste prevention tech outside of ever-more-advanced machine vision making its way into our fridges, there was a scrappy Canadian startup was showing off a cool new concept for home composting. The Sepura, made by British Columbia based Anvytech, automatically routes your solids into a food compost bin and disposes of your liquids.
You can see CNET’s video tour of the Sepura composter below:
Food Inventory Management
In addition to a number of food recognizing fridges, there are also a few other products on display showcasing how we could better manage our food. The Ovie smart food tracking system was on display at FoodTech Live, while a new entrant into the smart food tracking space, PantryOn, showed off a new dry pantry tracking system that will notify you and reorder an item when the product is low. While the PantryOn is a bit pricey with a retail price of $900, I am glad to see some companies think about innovating in the pantry.
Long-term, more intelligent sensors -- and the software and AI that stitches together all the information gathered from these technologies -- are going to make the kitchen truly sentient, which is why I always make sure to check out the new digital nose technologies every year while at CES.
While there was no shortage of electronic noses at CES this year, one digital schnoz that stuck out Cyrano de Bergerac-style was that from Stratuscent. The company’s technology, originally developed by NASA, can be used in a variety of verticals, but the company’s initial focus is food applications. Company CEO David Wu told me they are currently talking to appliance manufacturers about the possibility of including Stratuscent tech in their products.
On the counterop cooking front, Anova was at CES showing off its Precision Oven, which is slated to appear sometime this year. The company was demoing the benefits of steam throughout the show, including showing off how steam can help make much better bread. You can watch a walkthrough of the Anova oven from food tech innovator Scott Heimendinger below, who has been helping Anova with the oven.
One product that seemed to get lots of buzz at CES was a multicooker called Julia from CookingPal. The device looks and acts in large part like a Thermomix, with the main difference being a separate touch screen interface in the form of a 8.9″ display. The touch screen has a camera on it that, according CookingPal, will recognize food and suggest recipes. From there, the Julia offers video-powered guided cooking, and afterwards has a self-clean mode.
Much like big appliance brands caught home garden fever, many also seemed bitten by the food robotics bug. Chris covered much of what was on display, most of which struck me as futuristic visions of how robotics could be implemented in a consumer or professional kitchen to make our lives easier. Not that futuristic or far off is a bad thing -- what seemed crazy ten years ago often seems pedestrian in the present, and I expect at some point some of these products will be commercialized.
One that’s worth a look is the Samsung Bot Chef. While a bit reminiscent of the Moley robot arm kitchen robot, the Samsung bot’s fine motor movements and handling of kitchen utensils was impressive, suggesting that maybe a home robot chef isn’t as far off as I might think.
When I was doing my research on what to expect at this year’s CES for foodtech, I was surprised at some of the big ideas that were debuting at the show.
While CES normally is where gee-whiz technology debuts, this year appliance and home brands seemed to thinking bigger with concepts that could potentially solve real-world problems like reduce food waste or help those with special needs.
There also seemed to be a big focus, generally, on the kitchen as a place to employ cutting edge technologies ranging from AI, robotics, virtual reality and more. Big appliance, it seems, has realized what we’ve long believed: the kitchen is the heart of the home.
Finally, it seems personalization is grabbing hold in a big way. Everything from personalized nutrition to physical cooking spaces to meal plans is on the menu, something that I think aligns well with the broader push towards more personalized worlds in this era of data abundance.
We’ll be continuing the conversation about personalization at Customize, our Food Personalization Summit, in NYC on Feb 27th. Join us!