Every year after Smart Kitchen Summit, I do a couple things:
- Catch up on sleep.
- Process and distill all the insights, conversations and connections made during the past few days.
And this year, with over 600 attendees, 80 speakers and 30 sponsors at our flagship food tech event, there were a whole lot of interesting ideas to digest.
So now that I’ve caught up on sleep, I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned during these action-packed two days. While I will no doubt continue to connect the dots from the lessons learned last week — and gain additional insights as I watch the videos of the sessions I missed (stay tuned for those!) — here are some early observations about the trends on display at SKS 2018:
Products are shipping
At the first SKS in 2015, many of the early conversations were about next-gen cooking devices that had yet to ship. Compare that to today where companies like June are on their second generation product, and big appliance brands have deep integrations with software platforms from the likes of Innit and SideChef, and we are seeing a market that is less about theory and more about what happens when you put these products in the hands of actual consumers.
Innovation across the food system is interconnected
While some conversations about the future of the kitchen may start with looking at connected appliances, SKS showed us the future of food and cooking spans new delivery formats, AI & robotics, food retail, home design and much more.
We heard from startups making AI platforms to create highly personalized new flavors for CPG companies. Executives from restaurants, big food, appliance, and software companies talked about how their companies are taking part in a rapidly changing meal journey. We heard from home designers working with technology providers to create new kitchens that incorporate intelligence within the fabric of the home.
The big takeaway here is that all of these stops along the journey to the plate are not isolated, but part of a bigger interdependent whole.
Business models are crystalizing
One of the biggest challenges in new markets is figuring out how companies will make money. Because of this, at this year’s SKS we dug deep into how business models are changing with a bunch of amazing talks and conversations from those forging a new path. We heard from the President of BSH Appliances about transitioning one of the world’s largest appliance makers to a services-oriented company, from ChefSteps on the path to becoming a food delivery company, and about lessons learned by the former head of product behind both the original Amazon Echo and the Juicero.
After hearing from these leaders on stage and discussing their business models in the hallways and backstage, I’m am convinced those pioneering the future of food are figuring out new and unique approaches that are informed by the past — but break conventions when and where necessary.
Existing markets morph slowly (with occasional ‘big bang’ jolts of innovation)
One thing I try to keep in mind is markets don’t change overnight. Existing product categories — whether they are packaged food, appliances, restaurants or retailers — evolve as new alchemies of technology, business model innovation, societal changes, and company cultures bring about long-term change to a given market.
Occasionally, however innovation evolution is catalyzed by those that help us see into the future, and this year at SKS we heard about a few of these big-bang jolts of innovation. Whether it starts with a maker who hacked together a home sous vide circulator in 2012, a serial inventor working in a well-funded research lab where he convinces Nathan Myhrvold of potential of our 3D printed food future or Amazon’s reimagining the future of the grocery store, we were shown the potential of accelerating innovation through singular visions.
Innovation is happening globally
We took our event international last year with Smart Kitchen Summit Japan, and this year we went fully global by taking the event to Europe. This global nature was on display in Seattle this week with startups from all over the globe showcasing their ideas and products, appliance and food goliaths sponsoring our event, and speakers from all over the world discussing their ideas on stage
We are exploring stories at SKS and The Spoon
One of the realizations I’ve had since starting the Smart Kitchen Summit in 2015 is that our job is to help food innovators share their stories. We do that throughout the year by telling stories at The Spoon of creators doing exciting work. We also engage in conversations with them on our podcasts where we can learn more about their work.
We also like to have the stories we discover shared from the SKS stage. Stories resonate most when shared by the person who lived it, and it’s through thoughtful conversation, questions, and connections that new chapters are added.
Thanks to all those who made SKS 2018 possible and a special thanks for those who came to SKS and shared your story. For the rest of you, we can’t wait to hear your story, share it with our community, and maybe even have you on stage for SKS 2019!