Smart kitchen startup Fresco announced today that it had raised $20 million in Series B funding from kitchen appliance mainstays Instant Brands and Vorwerk, the company behind Thermomix. According to the release, a third company has also participated in the funding round and will be identified later this year.
Fresco, which up until earlier this month was known as Drop, plans to use the funding to bring on additional talent and invest in product development. The company, which currently has a workforce of 50 employees, plans to double its headcount over the next two years.
In both Instant Brands and Vorwerk, Fresco is bringing on investors that are also customers. Fresco started working with Instant Brands, the company behind the popular Instant Pot pressure cooker, in 2019, and last year Fresco developed the Instant Brands Connect app to work with the company’s new premium pressure cooker, the Instant Pot Pro Plus. Vorwerk and Fresco first announced their partnership in 2019 at the Smart Kitchen Summit, a deal in which Fresco was to power device connectivity and online shopping for the Thermomix TM6.
Fresco is among a group of technology platform players building software to power appliance inter-connectivity, cooking assistance, and meal planning for the kitchen. However, while many of the company’s peers have increasingly focused on powering online grocery shopping experiences (including Whisk, which ultimately helped Thermomix with its on-device shopping), Fresco has doubled down on guided cooking, meal planning and device interconnectivity.
I asked Fresco CEO Ben Harris why they decided to focus more on the cooking portion of the meal journey and not emphasize grocery commerce like its peers. According to Harris, it was a matter of focus.
“We absolutely see the value in plugging into grocery,” said Harris in an interview with The Spoon. “It’s a strategic decision to make sure that we build the best guided cooking experience.”
Fresco’s latest funding follows a $13.3 million Series A funding round led by Alpha Edison and Morpheus Ventures in 2020. At the time of their Series A, the company emphasized its intent to build the ‘kitchen operating system,’ a positioning that was not all that surprising given Alpha partner Steve Horowitz’s role as the lead developer for the Android operating system. With its latest investment, the company’s messaging is still essentially the same (with maybe a slightly less tech-forward framing) as it brings on popular consumer brands behind Instant Pot and Thermomix as investors.
“Instant Brands and Fresco are working together to develop innovative breakthroughs in the kitchen, and beyond,” said Ben Gadbois, CEO and President of Instant Brands, in the release. “This investment deepens our partnership further and supercharges these initiatives.”
As for those wondering who the third investor might be, while Fresco is keeping that quiet for now, Harris did offer a clue: Unlike Vorwerk and Instant Brands, Harris said the other investor is not a countertop appliance brand, but is instead a manufacturer of large appliances. The Fresco CEO said he expects more partners to invest in the future.
“We expect to announce more partners in the future investing in the platform and this is just really the first cohort.”