There’s a reason Perfect Day’s dairy-alternative ice cream sold out of its very limited test run in mere hours last year. Despite its hefty price tag (almost $60 for three pints plus $60 for shipping), the flora-based ice cream is immensely popular, probably in no small part because it’s indistinguishable from the real thing. The FDA has officially approved the company’s flora-based protein as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), and Perfect Day has also nabbed a little over $200 million in funding so far. Ice cream isn’t the company’s only ambition, either. Perfect Day has “numerous product launches” planned for the future.
The whole point of food robots is to bring precision and consistency to food prep. It also doesn’t hurt that they can do repetitive tasks all day without getting tired, injuring themselves or taking a break. Picnic was a hit at the 2019 Smart Kitchen Summit, where it launched its pizza-assembling robot. The modular machine can top 200 pizzas an hour, and new nodes can be easily added to expand the range of toppings. But to really understand why Picnic is on the list, you have to see beyond the pizza and into any type of quick-service food that needs to be assembled fast. The Picnic robot could also be used for sandwiches, wraps/burritos and more.
Creating plant-based protein is one thing. Creating it at scale and on the same price parity as traditional meat is another, and one not every plant-based protein company has accomplished. That’s one of the major reasons Rebellyous, which uses tech to do just that, landed on our list this year. The company started out in the B2B realm, supplying hospital cafeterias with its chicken nuggets made of soy and wheat protein. When COVID-19 hit, it quickly pivoted to offering its plant-based ‘nuggs on retail shelves in the Seattle area for a similar price and protein content as other chicken nuggets.
Refraction’s REV-1 is like the Goldilocks of autonomous robot delivery. It’s a rugged, three-wheeled robot that can speed along in the bike lane even in inclement weather. It’s this form factor that sets it apart from other autonomous robot delivery services. Smaller rover bots are slower and have to use the sidewalks; bigger solutions like pod vehicles or full-sized cars are less nimble than the REV-1. Sheltering in place during the pandemic made deliveries a lifeline for people stuck at home, but they also put gig working delivery people at risk. Refraction’s robots may provide one answer for a delivery hungry nation, and local governments may be more open to autonomous vehicles on city streets since the pandemic.
Like other restaurant tech companies, Sevenrooms quickly pivoted during the pandemic to offer digital tools to make the dining room more socially distant. But online menus and contactless solutions aren’t the only thing setting Sevenrooms apart from he pack. The company’s guest-management platform puts special emphasis on data — who owns it, how restaurants collect it, and, most important, how they can make it useful. Long before the shift to contactless everything, Sevenrooms was also experimenting with voice tech and personalization to help restaurants better understand everything from birthdays to which customers hate parsley. Data remains one of the most, if not the most, valuable assets a restaurant can own in today’s digital dining rooms. Sevenrooms continued focus on keeps that important conversation on the table.