You could see the growth of our Smart Kitchen Summit this year just by looking at the sponsor section. Back in 2015, the sponsor area was a few tabletops scattered around the back of the room. Four years later, we had an entire promenade featuring three demo kitchens with full appliances and a host of smaller startups.
Among those showing off their wares were: June, Brava, Markov and the Rotimatic. These are all sizeable countertop cooking devices that are too big and bulky to store in a pantry or shelf, so they have to be semi-permanent fixtures on your kitchen counter. Which got me thinking, how many appliances can one kitchen fit?
Because it’s not just those companies vying for your counter space. There’s also: Tovala, Suvie, Amazon’s Microwave, Bartesian, Picobrew U, and Breville’s new Pizzaiolo, not to mention whatever coffee maker you have, a stand mixer, and maybe a food processor or blender.
That doesn’t even include the amount of counter space you need just to prepare food. A quick search shows that the average kitchen only has 26 to 30 square feet of workable countertop space. My June alone takes up 2.6 square feet, almost a tenth of the square footage for an average American countertop.
At least the June does multiple things (oven, toaster, heaven-sent re-heater of pizza). As much as I’d love a Rotimatic, I can’t quite justify the counter space (or the $1,000) for something that only makes flatbread. Same goes for the Pizzaiolo.
The Brava and the Markov are interesting because of the new technologies they bring to traditional devices (light and AI, respectively), so they at least have the potential to change how we cook and replace existing devices.
But will these new appliances attract sizeable enough audiences? Will they achieve such a level of permanence in our cooking life that we will change the way kitchens are architected?
I rarely use my traditional oven, but I can’t imagine a kitchen without one. Perhaps that’s just my age showing, but it seems like we’ll always have the big, bulky, cooktop + oven combo (if not two ovens) and a fridge, and work out from there. Then again, maybe countertop induction burners can replace a traditional cooktop as well, allowing you to cook anywhere in the kitchen (and freeing up counter space!).
But who knows, the kitchen as we know it may be dying. Perhaps between more on-demand delivery of groceries and restaurant food, and the potential rise of prepared meal kits in supermarkets, we just won’t need the traditional appliances that we grew up with. Maybe the space once reserved for our oven(s) can now be freed up for something else, something more unitasking like a Rotimatic or a dedicated pizza device.
The point of all this is, is that there are a lot of devices coming to market, and none of them are cheap. In the case of the kitchen, it is a zero sum game. The addition of one device means less room for another, so when the kitchen counteropocalypse comes, there will be winners and losers.