Food tech prediction week at The Spoon continues, and today we’re looking at the home. And if you haven’t already, make sure you check out my predictions on restaurant tech, food robots, and plant-based meat.
Meet The Smart Food Delivery Locker
For the last few years, companies like Walmart, Amazon, and others have been trying to figure out how to deliver food when we’re not home. Ideas have run the gamut, from delivering products directly to our fridges, onto our dinner tables, depositing groceries in our garage, to even dropping deliveries into our car trunk.
All this effort would be unnecessary if homes just had temperature-controlled storage lockers, something that – at least until lately – hadn’t existed.
Until now. This month Walmart and HomeValet announced a pilot program that will deliver fresh groceries to the HomeValet smart outdoor delivery receptacle. Another company, Fresh Portal, is building a temperature-controlled home delivery box that is accessible both outside (for delivery companies) and inside the home. And then there’s Dynosafe, who appeared on Shark Tank in the spring of 2021 and got an investment from Robert Herjavec.
While companies like Yale have been making smart boxes for delivery for a little while, there hasn’t been a widely available temperature-controlled smart storage box. In 2022, I expect we’ll start seeing more deals like the Walmart/HomeValet deal, as well as some integration deals with third-party delivery providers.
Steam-Powered Cooking Gains Traction
Although steam cooking has long been a fixture in pro kitchens, it’s never taken off in the consumer kitchen. However, that could change in 2022.
Consumer steam cooking picked up, um, steam in 2020, when Anova started shipping their countertop Precision Oven. At CES this year, LG showed off a new microwave with steam cooking. And then there’s Tovala, the food delivery and steam oven startup which has started advertising it on national Sunday night football broadcasts.
While steam cooking has followed a similar path to sous vide circulators – a pro tool making its way into the home – I think it has much wider appeal. Because they know the power of steam-cooking, some chefs have pined for an affordable home combi-oven. Now that they’ve finally got their wish, 2022 might be the year consumers take notice.
Amazon Debuts a Smart Fridge
Back in 2017 when I first asked if Amazon might build on a smart fridge, all the evidence I had to go on was a couple of patent filings. Since that time, we’ve watched as the online giant launched branded kitchen appliances and worked on making Alexa a capable home cooking assistant.
And then last fall, Business Insider wrote about Project Pulse, Amazon’s top-secret smart fridge project. According to insiders, the fridge would include machine vision and other advanced technology tell us when food’s about to expire, and automatically order & replenish through Amazon. The effort is reportedly being led by the same group that developed Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology and has been in the works for a couple years.
Truth be told, the smart fridge category could use Amazon. The market has grown stale as big US appliance brands have slowed down their efforts in this space, including market leader Samsung. While the South Korean appliance giant has historically been the most aggressive among the bigs in the category, Samsung didn’t make any substantive announcements about Family Hub at CES this year other than adding it to the Bespoke Fridge line. There are also signs that the company may be shifting its focus to its new Home Hub as the center of its smart home strategy.
Bottom line, if an Amazon smart fridge becomes a reality in 2022 (and I think it will), it would catalyze some much-needed innovation from other large appliance makers.
Home Food Waste Technology Comes Into Focus
Smart composting appliances are one nascent category within home food waste innovation coalescing into a legitimate category. Kickstarter darling Lomi has finally started shipping, Vitamix, known for lits blenders, is shipping its FoodCycler FC-50, and a variety of others are on the way.
But composting is the last stop on the food waste mitigation express, and everyone would be better off preventing food from heading to the compost bin. To do that, we need better food storage, something a startup called Uvera is working with its food storage system that uses UVC light to kill bacteria and extend shelf life. There’s also Blakbear, who is working on a food storage system that would measure gasses emitted from food to help measure shelf life. And though they’re long overdue, startup Silo has told me they should be shipping in 2022.
For their part, most appliance brands still don’t seem to have a cohesive strategy for helping consumers reduce food waste, but that didn’t stop them from talking up sustainability at CES year. I hope all the talk translates to more action in 2022.
AR Takes Guided Cooking to the Next Level
Ever since Thermomix pioneered the category of guided cooking with the launch of the TM5 (and more recently the TM6), there’s been an array of companies building tech to assist consumers as they cook. In the last few years, that’s meant voice assistants from TinyChef and Amazon, software and connected cooking hardware from Hestan and others, and we’ve even seen futuristic concepts like this one at SKS 2020 that monitors eye glances as a way to help a consumer manage meal-making.
But the biggest leap forward in cooking assistance might come in the form of augmented reality. Last fall we saw Snap release their food scanning app that utilizes their augmented reality bar to help provide contextual information for items scanned by the phone, and last month we wrote about a cool demo of how a pair of AR glasses could significantly level up the home cook’s capabilities in the kitchen. And while Lauren Cason’s demo was just that – a demo – I expect some appliance makers may have taken notice of how powerful the combo of cooking and augmented reality could be.
We have a couple more prediction posts to come, so make sure to tune in next week!