Whirlpool made waves last year when it acquired Yummly, a popular recipe site, in order to boost their foothold in the smart kitchen space. With fingers in the grocery fulfillment and guided cooking pies, as well as a patent for an induction-powered sous vide cooking appliance, appliance giant Whirlpool is working hard to establish itself as a leader in the future kitchen space.

Next month, Brett Dibkey, Whirlpool’s Vice President of Brand Marketing, IoT, and Business Units, will return to the Smart Kitchen Summit (SKS) stage to talk about this very topic. We got to ask him a few questions in advance — on Yummly, IoT, and millennials — to get the smart kitchen juices flowing.

See the full Q&A below.

The Spoon: What role you do see Whirlpool and other connected appliance makers playing in the smart kitchen revolution?
Bretty Dibkey: Honestly, I don’t see Whirlpool’s role in the smart kitchen revolution any differently than our role in the (analog) kitchen revolution of the early 20th century. Like it was then, our focus today is on building and delivering products that create real meaningful value for consumers. While our definition of “products” may be changing, we remain obsessed with the principle of purposeful innovation. The smart kitchen will only be “smart” if the technology we deliver is purposeful and removes real friction from the lives of consumers. This is what we’re laser-focused on.

Last Whirlpool acquired smart recipe platform Yummly. How do you see this partnership furthering Whirlpool’s presence in the connected kitchen?
Whirlpool Corporation has unparalleled presence in the kitchen through our brands and product portfolio. Our brands, including Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, and JennAir, give us reach across major appliances, countertop appliances, cookware, and cutlery.

What we were missing prior to the Yummly acquisition was a digital platform to help tie the “physical” experiences of our products together. Yummly gives us a strong platform on which to build a digital presence that helps consumers address a variety of kitchen pain points — answering the “what’s for dinner” question, providing step-by-step guidance for new recipes, sending instructions to cooking appliances to ensure perfect results, and even replenishing out-of-stock ingredients.

With the rise in food delivery, some worry that kitchens will eventually become obsolete. Do you think that the kitchen will continue to be the heart of the home?
Certainly cooking habits and practices are changing, but I think the kitchen is far from becoming obsolete. Millennials, in particular, are concerned about nutrition and promoting healthy food attitudes with their children. I think because of this, the average millennial is cooking at home almost 5 times per week and nearly 90% say it’s something they’d like to get better at.

Our job at Whirlpool is to make products — both physical and digital — that enable and inspire all consumers to cook at home more. While cooking will always play a role in fulfilling a basic human need, I believe it is also increasingly becoming an outlet for creativity and passion. For this reason, I think the kitchen’s place as heart of the home will endure for many years.

Thanks, Brett! If you want to see him speak more about rethinking business models in the era of food tech, snag your tickets to the Smart Kitchen Summit on October 8-9th in Seattle.

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