Q&A with Angela Malik, Food Innovator & Disruptor

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Angela Malik is the wearer of many hats. A self-described "food innovator and design thinker," Malik has, throughout her career, worked in Michelin starred restaurants, launched her own cooking school focused on Asian cuisine on the back of Google SEO, and consulted for corporate catering companies. She's also currently part of the London Food Board, where she advises Mayor Sadiq Kahn 

Really, though, Malik is someone whose voice we need in conversations around food innovation: she's a professionally trained chef who fully embraces tech, and wants to use it to make what we eat more sustainable, more equitable, and more collaborative. 

Malik will be presenting a 15-minute TED-style talk at Smart Kitchen Summit Europe in Dublin next week, but we talked with Malik to give you a sneak peek at this culinary enigma. 

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

 

Q: You play a lot of roles — cooking teacher, chef, disruptor, and influencer. How would you describe yourself and your multi-faceted business?

A:  In general, I see myself as a connector between the food world and what’s happening between tech-driven businesses. It’s a unique space to be in, because food tech is evolving and changing as an industry at a very fast pace.

Currently, though, I describe my role as a “strategy & innovation consultant.” For example in my latest role I'm working with a large FTSE 250 listed contract catering company, to figure out what 21st-century workspace dining looks like and implement innovative business strategies. Tech, sustainability, hyper-personalization; these are the trends we’re seeing across business. I work on how we can incorporate those into food — and the answer, to me, lies in data.

 

Q: You have a strong culinary background — what drew you to be interested in food technology?

A: When I turned 30 I decided to leave my job as a forensic accountant with KPMG in London to enter the culinary world, so I joined Leith’s School of Food and Wine, trained to be a professional chef, and worked in Michelin star restaurants. But there weren’t many women — let alone Indian women — there, and I soon decided that restaurants weren’t going to be my game.

So in 2008 I opened up my first cookery school, which was all about demystifying Asian food. I launched it solo and taught myself SEO and adwords, basically building my business on the back of Google search. That business evolved into my first cookery shop and deli, which I called “The Modern Asian Deli.” My goal was to curate multi-sensory experiences where people could interact with food in different ways.

In 2015 my brick-and-mortar roll out plans hit a wall and I decided to reassess, so I asked myself: “What’s next? What is the future?” My other great love, besides food, had always been the internet. In particular I am fascinated about the businesses that lie behind technology, and their potential to impact millions of lives so I decided that I wanted to specialize in food tech.

It’s just such an interesting time — like the Wild West in the 1880’s — in food technology. I wanted to become one of the pioneers, especially since there weren’t many women.

 

Q: You’re part of the London Food Board, advising Mayor Sadiq Khan on food issues across the city. What exactly does that role entail, and what projects are you working on in the organization?

A: We are currently writing the London Food Strategy (LFS) document which will be implemented across Sadiq Khan’s mayoral term.  The LFS stretches across all the touch points a Londoner has with food throughout their lives: from breastfeeding to school and institutional dining all the way up to better ways to feed the elderly.

Basically, we want to answer the question “What impacts a Londoner’s food choices?” On the board, I have the particular role of leading conversation around the impact of tech on food. For example, now there’s a lot of talk about delivery companies in cities. I want these guys at the table; they need to be at the London Food Board and they need to be involved — and accountable — in the cities where they serve.

 

Q: You’re a vocal proponent for women chefs and food entrepreneurs. How do you think we can help women and underrepresented minorities have more of a voice and influence in the food tech sphere?

A: People in the food world are too obsessed with white men in white chef’s jackets. We need to learn to cross-pollinate and bring new perspectives to the party.

What I’m keen to do is for us [in London] to become a city where we have mechanisms put in place which allow adult training and education to happen, especially for women, and especially for minority women. Part of my soap box is: “Let’s look at ways that we can empower women who cook at home for their families.”

It just makes sense: there’s a massive shortage of qualified chefs, and we have a huge talent pool: women. I see digitization playing a big role in bringing more women into the food entrepreneurial space. These platforms let people communicate with each other and find each other, and discover new opportunities or avenues to get involved with food and tech.

For example, I’m working on an adult education and upskilling project on how to get more people, primarily women from BAME (black, Asian, minority, ethnic) backgrounds trained to do catering. A lot of them cook at home, but maybe English isn’t their first language, or they don’t have the tools to enter a business like this. We need to empower and celebrate their innate skills.
 

Q: What do you think will be the most disruptive trend in the food and cooking industry over the next few years?

A: Our world is changing at a very rapid pace. For example, we’re only just beginning to see the impact of delivery on our industry, it is equally frightening and exciting. Rather than be scared of it, though, we have to embrace it — and if we have to cannibalize our own businesses to do it, that’s okay. The biggest challenge will be making sure that new tech businesses are good citizens of the world

Early Bird tickets are on sale now through June 30th for Smart Kitchen Seattle! Come join us on October 8-9th to join the conversation about the future of food and cooking. 

Q&A with Thomas Buerki, CEO of DigiMeals

Next up in our Startup Showcase Q&A series is Thomas Buerki, founder and CEO of DigiMeals. Based in Zurich, Switzerland, DigiMeals creates custom digital interfaces to help users take advantage of smart kitchen tools — and help brands bridge the gap to connect with consumers. Their platform lets people surf and select recipes, order ingredients for through grocery delivery, and monitor their connected appliances. 

Read on to learn more about how DigiMeals is aiming to bring on the smart kitchen revolution, and the particularly tricky parts of getting a food tech startup off the ground. 

If you want to meet the DigiMeals team in person and see their tech live in action, register for SKS Europe in Dublin on June 11-12th!

This Q&A was edited for clarity and length. 

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Q: First thing’s first: give us your 15-second elevator pitch.

A: DigiMeals builds intuitive & user-focused cooking interfaces (and the platforms behind them) that manage recipes and integrate with smart kitchen devices. Our modular and multilingual solutions are easily customised and work seamlessly with existing sites, applications and ecosystems. They can also function on their own as low-maintenance standalone solutions, ideally suited to pilot new features or test products with new customer groups.
 

Q: How did you come up with the concept for DigiMeals?

A: It all started when some of us met helping an inventor of an ingenious smart kitchen device to develop and market his product. As with many new products, user adoption was one of the main challenges. But what we realized was that the appliance itself wasn't the problem. Instead, the issue was that people were skeptical about digital user interfaces because they had had bad experiences with recipe apps which were little more than digitized versions of cookbooks. They struggled to see the added value of digital recipes themselves. 

For us, it was the complete opposite: we had seen the potential of the smart kitchen and a clear vision of how much easier, more successful and more exciting technology with the right user interface could make cooking. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and set out to build a recipe solution that put the focus on a great user experience while enabling the full potential of the future smart kitchen.


 

Q: What distinguishes DigiMeals from other cooking interfaces?

A: Creating great user experiences is the key focus for us and we believe this is not achievable with a one-size-fits-all interface. Different user groups have very different views on what they consider value-adding features, or how something needs to look like to be familiar enough for easy adoption. Our solution is therefore not one single cooking interface but rather a set of features, processes and designs that can be combined in a very modular way to create the cooking interface that best matches the target users. And because it is always difficult to know in advance what specific interface a user group likes most, we make it easy to set-up pilots and test different interfaces.

 

Q: What role do you see DigiMeals playing in the smart kitchen ecosystem?

A: We see ourselves as a catalyst with the goal to bring more companies and people into the smart kitchen ecosystem. Our focus on easy, customisable solutions will make it as simple as possible for companies to get their technology to a level that is “smart kitchen” capable. At the same time, the user-focused interfaces will simplify the adoption of smart kitchen technologies.

 

Q: How will DigiMeals change the day-to-day life of its users?

A: Broadly speaking, we will introduce users to the possibilities of the smart kitchen. The exact impact will be different for each individual depending on their skills, preferences and many other factors. Some will find cooking easier thanks to smart kitchen devices and be more successful at making new recipes. Others might cook more often because they will save time or because they will find food preparation more exciting.
 

Q: Where are you at in your product development process right now? How big is your team, etc?

A: The underlying recipe and interactive cooking guidance platform is fully functional and already being used in solutions we have deployed for our partners. Other modules and types of interfaces are still in the test stage. However, thanks to the modularity of the entire system, they can be easily added later on. 

The recipe solution with the most advanced modules and integrations that we have built so far is probably the platform behind a showcase “intelligent kitchen” of a Swiss kitchen manufacturer. It includes guided cooking tools that controls various appliances like the oven and exhaust fan, has a touchscreen and Alexa-compatible voice interface, and is integrated with a broader smart home solution. That means that, for example, the lights over the stove turn on when the recipe requires you to fry something and you have not yet turned them on manually.

 

Q: What’s the most challenging part of getting a food tech startup off the ground?

A: I think many of the most challenging aspects in our work are similar to what startups in other industries face. The influence from both sides — the rather traditional food industry and the highly innovative tech industry — does make some things trickier though. For example, one point that should not be forgotten when operating in food tech is that many users, as well as companies, still work with very simple technologies. So you have to be careful not to overcomplicate things by bringing in sophisticated tech solutions that users do not feel comfortable with, or in which they don't see any added value.

Changing habits is hard when it comes to eating and cooking, and it might be even harder because many of those things people have done the same way for decades or even generations.

Thanks for speaking with us, Thomas! If you want to see DigiMeals pitch their product at our Startup Showcase in Dublin this June, register here

 

Q&A with Thomas Cooper, Founder of Pantri

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Next up in our Startup Showcase Q&A series is Thomas Cooper, founder of Pantri. His startup aims to optimize grocery replenishment services in your home by connecting your smart appliances to online grocery retailers. 

Read on to learn more about how Pantri is working to solve the trickiest problems in the grocery replenishment space, their DIY Amazon Dash-like button, and their plan to avoid startup death traps. 

And if you want to meet the Pantri team in person and see their tech live in action, register for SKS Europe in Dublin on June 11-12th!

This Q&A was edited for clarity and length. 

Q: First thing’s first: give us your 15-second elevator pitch.
A: We’re yet another one of those new smart kitchen hub wannabes! We want to take data from smart appliances that can track grocery usage and turn it into automatic replenishment orders with online grocery retailers. The advantage being that appliance manufacturers can focus on building fantastic devices and grocery retailers can concentrate on delivering food at great prices, while we concentrate on connecting them together via our common agnostic API platform.

 

Q: What inspired you to start Pantri?
A: I first dreamt up the idea when stacking shelves at a retailer as a teenager. I thought it rather novel how stock was booked in the warehouse, scanned out the tills and then re-ordered automatically to keep a set stock level using a computer ledger. Of course, my boyish dreaming quickly passed when I realised that no one is going to manually add and scan out all of their shopping.

Then, a few years ago - having long forgotten about the idea - I purchased a copy of Wired Magazine. It had a smart home supplement in it, showing off early iterations of various connected kitchen devices.  I could instantly see how these machines could start automatically scanning groceries.

Paired with the UK grocery delivery network (which has the highest market penetration on the planet), I realised that grocery items could soon be replenished automatically.  Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, I started work on Pantri to take data from these devices and use it to provide automatic grocery replenishment.

 

Q: What’s the most challenging part of getting a food tech startup off the ground?
A: Within the grocery replenishment space it's dealing with all the different API’s. Here's why:

For the food tech community as a whole - If you are a startup appliance or smart kitchen device manufacturer - you want to invest all of your time and effort into your device hardware. You then need to build some form of bespoke backend and user interface such as a smartphone app or website powered by servers running databases and API’s. This second part isn’t beyond the wit of man, but it is a lot more extra work.

At this point, your device is still useless from a grocery replenishment point of view.  So you now need to talk with the world’s online grocery retailers.

You find that one or two are accommodating, but technologically completely different & each one requires different software. Then you need to handle all of the patches and updates - before you’ve even sold your first product. 

Bringing the question back to Pantri - we are trying to solve this challenge by figuring the connections out once and then maintaining them so retailers and manufacturers only have to worry about our single endpoint. Pantri should provide manufacturers and users with an enhanced utility that enables automatic grocery replenishment to take place with minimal barriers.

 

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Q: How will Pantri change the day-to-day life of its users?
A: We’re never going to wholly automate grocery replenishment - and I think most users would find this undesirable. But what we can do is replenish 80% of your weekly shop basics, such as loo roll or soap or potatoes. 

Then you might decide to walk to your local market on a sunny Saturday morning, visit a deli & pick up an artisanal loaf of bread from your independent baker.  This is the type of purchase you'll enjoy - rather than the monotony placing the same old supermarket loaf in the trolley next to your dishwasher tablets.

Where Pantri can specifically add increased utility is to give users an agnostic platform.  A concern that many consumers are likely to have with the smart kitchen is that their $2,000 smart fridge, which they expect to last for the next decade, interacts with a single proprietary retailer. By purchasing a device that connects to Pantri, they know that if they want to change retailers, they don’t have to change their fridge, cooker, coffee machine & dishwasher too.

 

Q: What sort of kitchen appliances does Pantri pair with (so far)?
A:  We’re having conversations with various multinational appliance manufacturers to connect their appliances into the service.  

We’ve also built a little self-assembly button called “A Bit Pushy” which users are comparing to Amazon's Dash Button.  Except ours is a maker kit (so you need a soldering iron) which we’re branding under M Appliances. All the designs & code are open source.  It's meant to act as an inspiration to the maker community (electronics hobbyists) to encourage them to start making their own devices and connect to the Pantri API.  We’ve got some other example maker devices that we’re going to release under this brand over the coming year.

There's also our more consumer-focused concept Shenzhen Coffee Co. It's a sister brand that we’ve created to be run as a separate company. We plan on partnering with a China-based coffee pod machine manufacturer to build a device that accurately tracks a range of pods. The purpose of this is to show how easy it is for people to make their own smart appliance startups with Pantri.

We’re really excited about the potential in the maker community; after all, it took Tesla to show the auto industry how to do electric autonomous vehicles, and it was Yahoo & Google - not the Yellow Pages - that catalogued the web.  So whilst I don’t believe that the existing appliance manufacturers will go out of business, some of them will probably have a lesson taught to them by a garden shed startup.

We also have API access to several other national grocery retailers across various territories. One in particular is UK grocery store Tesco; they're very switched on about the potential new shopping iterations and provide great support to people like us. 

At the same time, we’re looking at how smaller retailers can setup say a Shopify store so that we can send orders directly to them.  We’re just finishing off a Marketplace app that makes selling items on Pantri as easy as selling on eBay. We’re already working with the first group of small retailers (some of which sell non-perishable grocery items already on eBay) and we’ll have them launched on the platform by mid-summer.

In fact, we’re operating two demo retailers ourselves. We’ve literally gone to our local wholesaler, opened up an account & will be shortly posting the orders from carrotdepot.com and tedspetfood.com (named after the office dogs) to UK customers for next day delivery.  Its a great proof of concept and an opportunity to discover and resolve issues firsthand. 

 

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Q: When do you plan to launch Pantri to the consumer market?
A: When its ready.  As we’ve seen with the current smart kitchen devices, the majority of them are cool - but not 100% just yet.

We’re initially looking to allow a few people in who can give us feedback to help us make Pantri really work, both for us and for them.  The maker movement is one such place, appliance manufacturers research labs and test networks are another. We’re also providing alpha & later beta access to vetted early adopters to try things out from a consumer perspective.

Maybe in 3 years time, you buy your new fridge & it has Pantri quietly built in.  When you start to use it, it will be as impactful as an Apple iPhone was in 2007.

Thanks for speaking with us, Thomas! If you want to see Pantri pitch their product at our Startup Showcase in Dublin this June, register here

Q&A with Michael Setton, CEO of TipCrop

Next up in our Startup Showcase Q&A series is Michael Setton, CEO of TipCrop. This startup's smart lighting platform allows growers to fine-tune the temperature, humidity levels, and LED intensity of their indoor crops. Their technology and indoor grow systems are used by chefs and urban farmers to grow microgreens, herbs, and other produce with high levels of control.

Read on to learn more about how TipCrop is using machine learning to facilitate indoor farming, educate kids about plants, and even control how fragrant your basil is. 

And if you want to meet the TipCrop team in person and see their tech in action, register for SKS Europe in Dublin on June 11-12th!

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Q: First thing’s first: give us your 15-second elevator pitch.
A: Tip Crop Oasis puts freshness and flavor at your fingertips by providing you with the best light "recipes" to grow amazing microgreens. Our simple, convenient, and efficient technology will bring more zing to your cooking
 

Q: How exactly does TipCrop use IoT, AI & big data to improve indoor farming crop yields?
A: There is a huge amount of plant science expertise worldwide, but it is very scattered and usually only accessible to professionals. The Internet of Things and AI are transforming factory automation and lowering the barriers to technology diffusion. We are convinced that sharing and crowdsourcing knowledge will improve not just crop yields, but also taste of what can be grown indoors -- and it allows it to be tailored to your own preferences.
 

Q: Tell us about your Quantum Core service.
A: We draw a parallel between the way light spectrum affects plants taste and phytonutrients and the way temperature controls ‘Maillard reactions’ (or caramelization) when cooking food. Photons interact with photoreceptors in plants and enhance or reduce certain traits they exhibit when exposed to full sun spectrum.

By controlling the light emitted by each LED, you can adjust its levels to produce sweeter stevia, more fragrant basil or hotter radishes. Quantum Core aims to use machine learning techniques to quickly understand what are the key wavelengths to select at the various stages in order to optimize culinary and medicinal plant growth.

 

Q: What is TipCrop’s target audience? Is it geared towards small-scale farmers, home growers, larger industrial indoor producers, or some combination?
A: Consumers are increasingly looking for food that's locally produced and more nutritious. If you enjoy cooking, you take care and pleasure in selecting your ingredients; we give everybody the opportunity to become producers and experience the joy of growing delicious plants throughout the year. That means that chefs will now become both the producers and buyers of herbs and plants they use for their recipes.

In the B2B space, our mesh networking approach ensures scalability and dramatically lowers the entry costs for large scale indoor farming.

 

Q: How will TipCrop change the day-to-day life of its users?
A: Gourmet experiences should not be restricted to restaurants or upscale grocery stores. By democratizing microgreens, we hope to put a little more excitement in people’s plates (or drinks) and get our customers to discover a whole range of new flavors and combinations. Tip Crop will show its users that it is possible, easy, and fun to grow our food indoors — and to do it quickly, with less water, and without pesticides. The Oasis approach brings consistent quality and nutrient content to plants, and we hope it will encourage people to think outside the box and be a bit more adventurous when it comes to culinary herbs and their uses.

We also expect to make a difference when it comes to education as kids will be excited to discover and explore interactions between light, plants and flavor in a hands-on way.
 

Q: What’s next for TipCrop?
A: We will continue to bring expertise to point of growth/use for each stage. We will help producers and consumers, who rarely interacted before, to start working together to come up with the light recipes to make the best-tasting plans.

We are also considering a crowdfunding campaign to launch TipCrop Oasis on a global basis. On the B2B front, within a year we would like to demonstrate the gains of our approach with respect to urban farming, possibly via partnership with professional kitchen manufacturers looking to add smart products to their catalog.

 

Q: What’s the most challenging part of getting a food tech startup off the ground?
A: From a business point of view, I think we are facing the same challenges that any IoT hardware startup encounters in terms of bill of materials costs, design for manufacturing, supply chain or software integration. We went through several designs to reach the current product — which is small enough to fit in any interior space.

When it comes to food tech, the journey may be tougher than in other domains because taste and flavors are so very personal. What is uniquely rewarding however, is the satisfaction of hearing when people taste what can be grown using Tip Crop and say “Oh Wow!’


Thanks for speaking with us, Michael! If you want to see TipCrop pitch their product at our Startup Showcase in Dublin this June, register here

 

 

Q&A with Anindya Roy, COO of Lecker Labs

Next up in our Startup Showcase Q&A series is Anindya Roy, COO of Lecker Labs, producer of Yomee. Billed as the "Keurig for yogurt," Yomee is a countertop appliance which combines milk (and milk alternatives!) with Yomee probiotic pods to create chilled yogurt in 6 hours. Read on to learn more about this startup's journey from concept to "idiot-proof" Kickstarted success.

If you want to meet Anindya and more of the Yomee team in person and see them demo their fully automated yogurt maker (and maybe even take a taste), register for SKS Europe in Dublin on June 11-12th!

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Q: First thing’s first: give us your 15-second elevator pitch.
A: Lecker Labs brings you Yomee, “Yogurt Made Easy”. Yomee is the world’s first fully automatic yogurt maker: It’s a single-button kitchen appliance. Pour a cup of milk, add a pod to our machine and come back for fresh, chilled yogurt in just a few hours. Eco-friendly, with zero packaging waste, and vegan-friendly: Use Yomee with soy, almond or other plant-based milks.  Yomee is the freshest possible yogurt: everything you want, and nothing you don’t.

 

Q: What inspired Lecker Labs to develop Yomee?
A: Lecker Labs is a consumer brand, offering “fresh, probiotic foods made easy”. Lecker is developing ideas beyond yogurt for fresh, healthy, organic foods made in the home with push-button convenience, offering plant-based alternatives that are always good to the environment.  

The Yomee brand is a personal story. Yomee was started by friends who wanted to give their children healthful yogurt, a food they already loved. But store-bought yogurt is generally packed with sugar and/or preservatives, comes in non-recyclable packaging, and even the best brands can sit on the shelf for a full month. This was unacceptable for Yomee’s founders, who grew up in pre-millenial India with fresh yogurt made daily in their homes. But making yogurt is a multi-step process and doesn’t fit in to our busy modern lives. This got the team thinking: How can we offer the freshness, taste, texture, and probiotic benefits of homemade yogurt in an “idiot-proof” appliance convenient enough for even the busiest (or laziest) modern consumers?  We successfully tested our concept on several idiots (we even hired one as our CEO).

 

Q: How will Yomee change the day-to-day life of its users?
A: Before Nespresso, there were just two ways to get a good cup of coffee: either go to a cafe or make a whole pot (preparing the grounds & filters, then cleaning everything after). Similarly, before Yomee, there were just two ways to get yogurt: Spend hours making yogurt at home, or go to a store and get products with unwanted sugar, preservatives, non-recyclable packaging, or a one-month shelf life.  Now people can enjoy a cup of fresh, pure yogurt with no prep, no other cleanup, no muss, no fuss.

Yogurt is a superfood and a popular choice for healthy and “gut-friendly” breakfast or snacking. Yomee is also designed to fit your life. The Yomee cup is specifically designed to hold 2 servings of yogurt, with a lid compartment to hold your toppings, and it all fits in your car’s cup holder. Pour a cup of milk (ether dairy or plant-based), pop a pod into your Yomee, push the button before bed. Six hours later, the cup now has delicious, chilled yogurt, just in time for breakfast or for you to take to your work or run.  It will stay cool for hours, so feel free to sleep in.                   

 

Q: Yomee blew past its Kickstarter & Indiegogo goals in 2017. What sorts of tips do you have for new startups trying to raise capital on a crowdfunding platform?
A: 
There is no substitute for awesomeness. Sure, it helps to have catchy graphics, taglines, a persuasive video, and attractive pricing. But marketing can only build awareness, it can’t sell products that don’t fit into people’s lives. Therefore, make sure your product has a story worth telling. Then invest in the visuals to tell your story. Make it easy for prospective backers to see how your product will make a huge, positive impact to their lives (at a reasonable price).

Once you have an awesome product, and you tell the story clearly, concisely, and in an engaging way… Tell the world!!!  Don’t rely on the platform to do your job! If you believe in your product, tell everyone! It’s got to be more than a compelling product idea. People will only back teams that have the mojo to deliver. Doers, not just dreamers.

 

Q: When do you plan to ship your first version of Yomee to its backers? (Or have you already done so?)
A: The first batch of Yomee appliances ship out to our crowdfunding backers in September and continuing through October. This will be followed by the launch of the Yomee store at yomeeyogurt.com, on amazon.com and via the Yomee app for ordering pods.
 

Q: What’s next for Yomee and Lecker Labs?
A: More fresh, probiotic foods, made at home. While Yomee already makes excellent dairy yogurt -- Greek, stirred or plain -- in the coming months Yomee will launch pods that can make soy, almond and coconut milk yogurts. The dairy pods will also extend to include natural flavors and nutritional supplements. Meanwhile our research teams are actively experimenting with Kefir milk and some other interesting developments on the horizon.

 

Q: What’s the most challenging part of getting a food tech startup off the ground?
A: 
Two things: the food and the tech. But mainly the admin and fundraising. OK, that’s 4 things. Every company has a unique set of challenges. For Yomee, the hardest part is managing the breadth of our model: We develop innovative patented technology in both the devices and pods. We manufacture complex appliances at scale on a startup’s budget. We develop and produce food products (pods) that have to meet complex regulatory requirements across the world. We are building a consumer brand from scratch, and developing a brand new habit in a nighttime yogurt making ritual (just pour milk and push a button, but still…)

We are dancing with giants making co-branding agreements with some truly global companies, and we are running to stay ahead of potential challengers. We operate internationally, and we cannot possibly meet all our complex demands with in-house talent, from engineering to branding to food science… But we’re awesome, so it’s going well!

Thanks for speaking with us, Anindya! If you want to see Yomee pitch their product at our Startup Showcase in Dublin this June, register here
 

Q&A with Jeroen Spitaels, Cofounder of Mealhero

One of our favorite parts of the Smart Kitchen Summit is our Startup Showcase. It's an opportunity for emerging businesses, makers, and entrepreneurs who are changing the meal journey to share their vision for the future of food and cooking. And we'll be bringing it to SKS Europe in Dublin this June!

We announced the 8 finalists last week, and now we're launching a series of Q&A's so you can get to know these founders a little bit better. First up is Jeroen Spitaels, cofounder of Mealhero. This Belgian startup is essentially a frozen meal kit service with a connected countertop steamer. Read on to get to know Mealhero, then check back in to meet more contenders in our Startup Showcase!

Note: This interview has been edited for grammar and clarity. 

Q: First thing’s first: give us your 15-second elevator pitch.
A: Mealhero is a smart cooking solution for consumers who want to enjoy healthy meals with zero hassle. We bring together a smart cooking device, a food box filled with freshly frozen ingredients, and a smartphone application.

 

Q: What inspired you to start Mealhero?
A: My two co-founders, Steven and Anton, and I were on a holiday and we started complaining: we didn’t have the time or energy to cook a decent meal after a long day’s of work, and we were sick and tired of unhealthy alternatives. So one of us said: “Let’s build something that does all of the cooking for you." Things got rolling from there on.

 

Q: What’s the most challenging part of getting a food tech startup off the ground?
A: For us it is definitely finding the right combination of food and tech. We are lone rangers when it comes to the unique core of our concept in combining food hardware and software. So getting all of the puzzle pieces fitting perfectly and interacting with each other is definitely not as easy as it seems.

 

Q: How will Mealhero change the day-to-day life of its users?
A: Food — and especially healthy food — is something that, often, is the last thing we think about. Even though we all realize it is probably one of the most important aspects of our lives. We've all been in the situation when we have no idea how to get good, healthy food on the table. This is where Mealhero comes in. Because of the technology (both hardware and software), our Mealheroes are completely at ease of preparing a perfectly cooked meal. And because they're starting with frozen food (with a long shelf life), our community is able to plug and play Mealhero food into their schedule whenever they need it the most.
 

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Q: How does Mealhero use technology?
A: 
Our technology is absolutely vital for our product. When we’re stressed out in the kitchen (due to lack of time or lack of chef-worthy skills) it's easy to mess up perfect ingredients. Too often we’re disappointed by the end result. Our technology takes this entire burden away. Our smart cooking device recognizes ingredients and cooks them to perfection, every single time.
 

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other prepared frozen meals and meal kits?
A: Most food companies are focused on being either healthy or convenient. So we as consumers need to make a tough decision every day: Am I going to eat something healthy? Or am I going to eat something convenient? But there are very few services that bring the two together. So it’s exactly this market gap that Mealhero fills.

With most frozen meals, the variety of choices is very, very limited. With Mealhero, you are able to choose from over 700 different meals. So we can perfectly tailor your meal to your specific needs.

The problem with meal kits is that fresh food doesn’t always work well within a busy schedule. Because of the very short expiration date of 2 to 3 days, you need to adapt your entire week's schedule towards the meal kits, and there is very little margin for change. This often leads to food waste, which Mealhero does not since our ingredients are frozen.

 

Q: What’s next for Mealhero?
A: At this time, we’re about halfway towards reaching the delivery point for our Kickstarter backers. The first big milestone will definitely be delivering our product to our amazing Mealhero community so they can start preparing delicious home-cooked meals through our service. And afterwards, well: Bill Gates once said he wanted a computer in every home … Why not have a smart tech chef in every home to along with that?

 

Want to hear from Jeroen and other emerging food tech entrepreneurs? Register for SKS Europe, this June 11-12 in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin! 

 

Startup Showcase Finalists Announced! Come & Meet Them

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After some excellent applications and much deliberation, we've selected 8 food tech startups to pitch at our SKS Europe Startup Showcase! They're a diverse and fascinating group, covering everything from guided cooking to taste-pairing to water purification.

Get to know the candidates below and make sure to get your tickets to SKS Europe on June 11-12 to see them pitch, watch their demos, and learn about how their products will impact the future of food. We'll see you in Dublin!

 

 

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Pantri
Startup Pantri's grocery usage-tracking service connects to smart devices in your kitchen to enable users to see when they're getting low on grocery items and reorder from their chosen online retailers. Its website tells users to think of Pantri like a "butler 2.0," but we view it more like a DIY Amazon Dash platform.

 

PlantJammer
Based in Copenhagen, PlantJammer is a vegetarian recipe-generating app which uses AI to help determine optimal flavor pairings in an effort to help inexperienced chefs cook more plant-based dishes and reduce food waste. If you want a more in-depth rundown of PlantJammer's modular cooking platform, check out our profile of them on the Spoon.

 

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mealhero
This Belgian startup, which we wrote about on the Spoon last year, is a frozen meal kit service with an accompanying cooking device. After selecting a recipe on the mealhero app, users receive a box of fresh-frozen ingredients which they can cook in the connected countertop steamer. The app helps them assemble the prepared components into a final dish.

 

Mitte
This Berlin-based startup wants to revolutionize the way we drink water at home. Their smart water machine purifies tap water, then lets you customize it with cartridges that re-infuse the water with minerals or increases the pH level depending on your taste preferences and fitness goals. Bonus: it syncs up with your phone to give you deeper insights into and control over your H2O.

 

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Lecker Labs
Startup Lecker Labs is the maker of Yomee, a countertop yogurt maker. We've covered this Keurig-like machine before: you pour in your favorite milk (even non-dairy), pop in a Yomee starter pod, select your desired type of yogurt on their app (Greek, stirred, etc.), and in 6 hours it's chilled to 55 °F and ready to eat. 

 

TipCrop
TipCrop is a smart lighting platform which allows growers to fine-tune aspects of their indoor farms (such as temperature, LED intensity, and humidity), giving them the ability to optimize their crops. As of now, their technology is used to grow microgreens and leafy greens in urban farms.

 

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Digimeals
Swiss startup Digimeals is working with kitchen appliance companies and recipe publishers to build their cooking interface. Their platforms let you peruse recipes based on what you already have, export the ingredient list for online grocery ordering, and monitor the cooking progress by aggregating data from your smart cooking devices.

 

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Our last finalist will be launching their technology at SKS Europe, so for now we have to keep them shrouded in mystery. But let's just say their platform could have huge implications for the smart kitchen. 

 

Intrigued? Inspired? Want to hear more? Register for SKS Europe in Dublin on June 11-12th to meet the people behind these startups, hear them pitch, and experience their product demos. 

Q&A with David Cronström, Head of Strategy and Ecosystems at Electrolux

Over the past few years, appliance brands large and small have begun to stake their claim in the kitchen market. One that's been especially active is Electrolux; in 2015 the company launched a smart steam oven with a connected camera, and they acquired sous vide company Anova in February of 2017.

In preparation for SKS Europe this June in Dublin, we spoke with David Cronström, their Head of Strategy and Ecosystems, about the future of smart kitchens, what connectivity means to him, and his favorite pasta dish (hint: it has truffles). 

Q: You’re Head of Strategy and Ecosystems at Electrolux. What exactly does that role entail?

A: We have an organization within Electrolux that looks after connectivity. My team looks after the overall IoT strategy for Electrolux, as well as our global partnerships, like if we do something with Google or Amazon or Apple. As we connect things there are new business models that our team also looks into, we do a lot of business model innovation work.

We talk about taste when we talk about the kitchen; it’s all about getting the best taste from cooking with your appliances. That also encompasses services and apps and accessories and things like that.

We are working hard to create great consumer experiences. Digital technologies and connected appliances gives us new tools to do this.

 

Q: Sometimes smart kitchen can refer to connected appliances, but also to products that are very well-designed. What does “smart” mean to you?

A: At Electrolux, if we call an appliance smart we mean it’s connected. There are at a lot of digital touchpoints throughout the consumer journey. From when you’re looking for inspiration to the post-purchase part where you’re actually using the product, adding functionality to it. Digital is such a big part of that journey, and we don’t ignore it.

However, the “connected” category can apply to a lot of things. It includes services, apps, voices and actions. Just thinking about it in terms of wifi is a bit narrow.

 

Q: Electrolux has an entire section devoted to smart kitchen appliances on their website. How have you seen the demand for smart kitchens items — and smart home items in general — grow during your time at Electrolux?

A: There’s no doubt that the market is growing. Smart and connected products are a very fast-growing segment and we see growth across the board. Some of the kitchen products I’ve seen increasing in popularity are things like precision cookers,. However, I do think that it’s still a very emerging market. A lot of companies are experimenting with products for the smart kitchen, trying to figure out how to use connectivity in a way that actually solves a problem. That’s very core to our mission; we want our products to address an issue, not just be connected in order to tick a box.

 

Q: How do you envision Electrolux expanding their smart kitchen offerings in the future?

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A: First of all, we recently introduced a smart oven. It has connectivity and an integrated camera, so consumers can look into the oven, check on what they’re cooking with an app and remotely control the cooking process by changing the time duration or temperature..

Combining appliances with other assets, like apps, content or a digital voice assistants, inspires people to cook. It helps them get the perfect result. For some consumers, it gives them the confidence to try new meals.  Many people, myself included, tend to resort to cooking the same 10 dishes all the time. We don’t have the confidence or time to experiment. That will change as we assist consumers in the kitchen. With our connected appliances, you can have confidence that dishes will turn out the way you want them to.

The products we’re selling have such functionalities, like the smart oven. Thank’s to the  connected app so you don’t have to worry about anything: it includes recipes, step by step guidance, and tips on how to cook. You can search by certain meal types and find whatever you’re in the mood to cook. Once you choose a recipe, it’s broken down into steps. It tells you things like when you need to preheat the oven, and you can send instructions directly to the oven. The oven becomes your sous chef, it takes care of things for you.

Sometimes when people are cooking they feel stuck in the kitchen. They don’t dare leave it since those last 10 minutes of the cooking process are a critical part. With the connected camera, however, you can still keep an eye on things even if you’re not in the kitchen. You can extend cook time or change the temperature from your sofa. This addresses a need we found by studying consumer behavior.


 

Q: What’s a big problem in home or restaurant cooking that technology hasn’t fixed yet, but should be?

A: There are a lot of areas where there are solutions, but they can be improved upon. Maybe there’s a better way to go about saving time or getting the best result or finding inspiration. It really depends on the consumer; everyone values different things while cooking.

One thing I hope to see is more products that can work together, regardless of brand. That’s a hurdle that has been there for a while. People don’t want to be locked in to purchasing everything in their home from one brand. That’s one reason why we’re working, for example, with the Open Connectivity Foundation, to define a protocol that will help products to work together and speak the same language.

 

Q: What’s next for Electrolux? How do you see them growing over the next 5, 10, and 20 years?

A: The kitchen is such a central part of any home, it’s the heart. For that reason I think you are seeing, and will see, more companies and brands moving into the kitchen, and more and more products getting connected. There will be a lot of new services popping up that relate to the kitchen, whether that’s replenishment, shopping, or even entertainment. I see an ecosystem formed around the kitchen.

 

Q: What’s your absolute favorite thing to cook in the kitchen?

A: I think it would probably be pasta. At home we do a pasta with truffles and beef or mushrooms on top, which is one of our favorite dishes.

If you want to hear Cronström speak more about creating sustainable innovation, get your tickets to see him at SKS Europe in Dublin on June 11-12th!

Q&A with Kishan Vasani, CEO of dishq

At one point or another, we have all suffered from menu confusion: the feeling when a restaurant offers too many good-looking dishes, overwhelming us with choice. You don't want to choose the wrong thing and be stuck with it, but you need to make a decision. 

Bangalore-based startup dishq is using AI and consumer data to try and simplify the process by giving companies like restaurants, office cafeterias, and food delivery services the power to make personalized food recommendations to their customers. 

In preparation for SKS Europe this June in Dublin, we decided to ask dishq co-founder and CEO Kishan Vasani a few questions about how his company is trying to simplify the food decision-making process. 

Read on to learn about how the company uses AI to personalize your restaurant recommendations, the future of predictive ordering, and what Vasani predicts that I want for dinner. (Hint: he was (partially) right.)

 

Q: First off, tell us a little bit about dishq: how does it work, and who does it aim to serve?

A: dishq is essentially a taste prediction tech company. Our mission is know what consumers want to eat before they do! We use food science, rich food data, behavioural analysis and AI to achieve this. Our first product is a food recommendation engine, that can be integrated by any digital food business, e.g .UberEats, or by restaurants that use in-store tech, e.g. self-serve McDonalds kiosks. Our technology brings data intelligence into the food decision making process, with inspired and delightful recommendations.
 

Q: What inspired you to start dishq?

A: Two things. Firstly, I personally feel the pain of over choice and irrelevance on menus every time I go out to eat or order delivery. One time I went to a restaurant with a 27-page menu! Who wants to read a book when they’re hungry?! I asked the waiter for a suggestion and he gave me what seemed like a generic response, mostly likely what was popular at that restaurant. In the end, I gave up and just asked the waiter to order whichever starter and main.

Secondly, having spent 3.5 years at Just Eat, the world’s largest online food ordering platform, I saw how we were collecting useful data on customers, i.e. purchase and browsing histories, but weren’t doing anything with it. When I looked at other verticals, e.g. fashion, music, ecommerce, many of the market leaders in those sectors were considered innovators in personalisation and recommendation. The irony is that food is the most personal and frequent purchase we make, yet the food industry, even today, does almost nothing to help you make the right choice for you.  
 

Q: As of now, it seems like dishq chiefly works with food ordering platforms and restaurants. Do you see yourselves expanding to partner with CPG brands in the future?

A: The CPG sector is very much a part of our long term strategy. We’re currently developing a data analytics platform that CPG brands can use to better understand the taste profiles of their customers, as well as local and global taste trends in near real-time. We believe this platform will become a critical cog in the new product development process, not just for CPG brands, but also larger restaurant chains who are constantly evolving their menus. We’ll be launching our beta product (for restaurant chains) in late September 2018, with the CPG beta following in Q1 2019.
 

Q: You’ve said that collaborative filtering, like the kind used by Amazon or Netflix, won’t work for food recommendations since eating is such a personal experience. How do you at dishq overcome that hurdle to create personalized recommendations?

A: To be clear, it’s not that collaborative filtering won’t work, it just won’t perform as well as a content based filtering (or hybrid) approach. Unlike music recommendations, the stakes with food are much higher. If you don’t like the song that Spotify recommends, you can just hit ‘next’. But the wrong food recommendation comes with both economic and emotional downside. We all know how it feels to have a dish or meal that just wasn’t satisfying.

Also, the nature of collaborative filtering means that if a new dish is added to a menu, this type of algorithm won’t be able to recommend this dish because it has no user related history or sentiment to interpret. That’s not the case with a content based filtering approach. However, collaborative filtering does have a limited role to play; it can be used to cluster groups of diners who have very similar tastes.
 

Q: Predictive ordering seems like it might be around the corner—do you see that being a part of the near future?

A: Yes, but food platforms need to build trust with users first, especially in regards to their predictive capabilities. Having said that, the element of serendipity is very important here. Being able to continually surprise and delight eaters can really build intrinsic brand loyalty.

There are some powerful implications of this technology [predictive ordering] too. For example:

  1. Nutrition/diet goals are automatically taken care of as machines keep track of your food journey.

  2. Never feel hungry, as machines knows your biological needs & cycles.

  3. Always eat great food at any place and occasion.

Also, food businesses can derive great value [from predictive ordering]:

  1. They can manage their inventory better and also minimise waste.

  2. They can gain loyal customers and hence earn higher revenue per customer.

  3. Restaurants need not be dependent upon rating and review platforms any more if there is better alignment between food and eaters.

 

Q: dishq is currently based in Bangalore. Do you work with a lot of customers in India? If so, how does that experience differ from customers you might have in London or other European areas? Are there different needs?

A: Our recommendation engine has been available for about 6 months and we have more than 10 company customers, half of which are outside India. We have customers in the US, UK, France, and Singapore. Every customer, regardless of their location, has their own requirements. We’ve found that each one has a slightly different pain point or strategic focus. For some, adding personalised recommendations to their platform is about giving their customers a superior experience, building trust and loyalty. For others, the need is more commercial, i.e. they would like to see their customers spend more.

It’s also really important for us to understand the local nuances of food. For example, we have a dual lens for every cuisine. In Italy, there’s no such thing as Italian food;  dishes are Sicilian or Tuscan, for example. Of course, for the majority of us outside of Italy, it is all simply grouped under "Italian food." Therefore, our technology considers the relative importance of an individual’s home cuisine.

We also know that many popular dishes are cooked in several different and distinct ways depending upon the origin of the chef. Take India for example, one of the most popular local dishes is paneer butter masala, and we understand how it might taste more buttery if it’s made by a chef from the western state of Gujarat or spicier if the chef is from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

 

Q: What’s next for dishq? How do you see it growing over the next 5, 10, and 20 years?

A: In the next few months, we’ll be launching the first version of our taste analytics platform, which is specifically for digital food businesses. Over the next 18 months, we’ll open the platform to both bricks & mortar restaurant chains, and finally CPG brands. In a parallel stream of work, we’re expanding our recommendation technology to table booking platforms, offering them personalised restaurant recommendations. The longer term plans for dishq are about inserting our technology where F&B businesses and consumers have to make choices. Either a choice about what to eat or deciding what to produce. Our technology is about bringing greater alignment in this industry, thereby increasing efficiency and satisfaction. Our most ambitious plans are to be the platform that holds all the world’s taste preferences, which means we can help businesses instantly identify and personalise their offering to someone, even a new customer.

 

Q: What do I want for dinner tonight?

A: How about sauteed sea snails to start, and fettuccine with white truffle butter and mushrooms for as your main. Were we close?

 

If you want to hear Kishan Vasani speak more about how AI and predictive ordering will shape our eating patterns, make sure to get your tickets for SKSEurope in Dublin June 11-12th. 

Q&A with Dr Stefan Hilgers, Head of Product for Thermomix

If there was ever such thing as an all-in-one kitchen gadget, Thermomix would be it. It has attracted a cult-like following with its promise to replace over 12 appliances in your kitchen, helping users mix, chop, knead, weigh, and steam their way to restaurant-quality meals in a fraction of the time. Within the past few years, the German appliance company has also tried to edge further into the smart kitchen space by adding connected recipes for step-by-step kitchen assistance.

We chatted with Dr. Stefan Hilgers, Vice President of International Product Management at Thermomix, to learn more about the appliance's secret to success, its struggle to enter the U.S. market, and his favorite thing to whip up in his Thermomix at home. 


Q: You are the head of product for Thermomix, an enormously popular multi cooker that is trying to change the way people cook with technology. What do you think has made this product so successful?

A: I believe that we are so successful because we're customer-centric. Our customers are very communicative and vocal about what they want. Because we have direct contact with consumers in our demonstrations, we get one-on-one experience with how customers use our product in their homes. We also gain a lot of information from our qualitative research “in-depth interviews." From this we get a detailed understanding of our users' needs.

On the other side of things, we have a very passionate team. Our sales force is very strong; they're brand ambassadors, not only salespeople. They use our products themselves and recommend it to others because they want to share the benefits. We love what we do at Thermomix and love happy customers. 

 

Q: When trying to come up with new products for Thermomix, or updates on older ones, what do you always keep in mind? What goals are you trying to reach?

A: We have been very single appliance minded for over the past 50 years. We concentrate on the most important functions of our customers—the things that 80% of our customer want—and we implement them. Since we have only one product we have to be careful: any technology we include should be easy to use.

We also want products that:

- Deliver customer value

- Create raving fans

- Are carefully tested and adjusted

- Have good value for money

- Respond to a customer need

Overall, any appliance we create has to make life easier and bring more pleasure to cooking.

 The Thermomix in action. 

The Thermomix in action. 

Q: While the Thermomix been hugely popular abroad for a while, it’s just starting to make headways in the U.S. What makes the U.S. market different, and how are you adjusting your marketing strategies for the American consumer?

A: We are a direct-selling company and opening a market is a huge effort for us. You need special certificates and adapting to new cultures is huge. We have there a wonderful team in the U.S. with a visionary leader, however, which makes the transition easier.
 

Q: You have a giant community of Thermomix users (roughly 10 million, according to your website). How do you leverage and cultivate that community of cooks?

A: We enable the network to engage in the value creation for the community. We analyze data, cluster users by what the like to do and help them achieve their kitchen goals. We also meet the most engaged customers regularly, help them to receive recognition for what they do and offer opportunities to help them to become better cooks with ThermoMix. 


Q: What can we expect to see next from the Thermomix team over the next 5, 10, 15 years? What role do you see the Thermomix occupying within the smart kitchen?

A: Thermomix was a hardware product for so many years, but we have created a seamless fusion of hardware (motor, heating, scale, user interface) and software (recipes). We added the Cook-Key to the Thermomix TM5 and established Cookidoo, a digital ecosystem with more than 1 million connected devices. (More features to come!) Of course, we are expecting close cooperation with other brands—maybe the first connections will be established here on the SKS! Our motto is: Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.

 

Q: What’s your favorite dish to make using your Thermomix?

A: Broccoli salad with pine nuts: It only takes 5 minutes and is so tasty that even my children eat it with joy. When it comes to cooking, I like to make risotto, because it is easy and basically guaranteed to be successful. Last but not least, I like to make milk rice (without burning it, of course).

If you want to hear Dr. Hilgers speak more about what Thermomix is doing to further the future of food & cooking, make sure to get your tickets for SKSEurope in Dublin June 11-12th. 

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Q&A With Johan Langenbick, Co-founder of Foodpairing

What ingredients go best with cauliflower? Cheese, maybe? Onions? What about chocolate?

Cocoa and cauliflower is just one of the untraditional flavor combinations made by Foodpairing, a platform that uses data analysis and machine learning to determine how well different tastes go together.

In preparation for  SKS Europe, we decided to ask Foodpairing co-founder and CEO Johan Lagenbick a few questions about how the technology works, how it could change the way we all cook and eat, and what the best flavor match is for a potato.

P.S. Register for SKS Europe to see Johan and other innovators discuss the future of food and cooking. It's all happening on June 11-12th in Dublin's historic Guinness Storehouse. We'll see you there!

 

Q: First off, tell us a little bit about how Foodpairing works.

A: Foodpairing provides possible food combinations based on the intrinsic properties of the flavor compounds present in the ingredients. This results in flavor combinations that are innovative and not influenced or restricted by cultural and traditional context of the products.

This independence occasionally results in surprising and unusual combinations, such as endives used in a dessert, white chocolate and caviar, or chocolate and cauliflower. Even though they are unusual, these pairings are quite tasty, because the combined food products share certain aroma components. The Foodpairing® Methodology opens up a whole new world of possible food combinations.

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Q: Contrary to what people might guess, your science focuses on aroma, not taste. Why is this?

A: It is estimated that 20% of a tasting experience comes from taste, whereas 80% comes from the smell or the aroma. Based on this, a hypothesis can be put forward: if the major volatile molecules of two foods are the same, they will probably taste (and smell) nice when eaten together.

While our basic Foodpairing algorithm functions primarily based on aroma, our company has expanded its research and created advanced algorithms to determine new pairings and recipes using multiple dimensions such as taste and texture.

Q: Johan, you have a background in product development and innovation consultancy. What inspired you to start Foodpairing?

A:  The culinary world is a creative one and it’s in constant motion. When Foodpairing was only an idea it brought us into contact with top chefs like Heston Blumenthal, which definitely inspired me to develop the company. However, what really drove me was the endless possibilities that come from combining food with scientific and digital insights, all while keeping in mind that food is, above all, directly linked to human emotions and joyful experiences. A shared passion for innovation in food tech is what binds together Foodpairing's founders: Bernard Lahousse, Peter Coucquyt and myself.

Q: What makes Foodpairing valuable? Chefs and food companies have been creating innovative flavor combinations for hundreds of years using their imagination and tastebuds—why is it better to use science instead of intuition and personal experiments?

A: If you ask a chef what he likes the best in his job, they will most likely answer "recipe creation."  We assist chefs during their most precious moment: the creativity phase! We strengthen and reconfirm their intuition, and at the same time uncover white space flavor territories.

The value lies in the knowledge transfer and our ability to help chefs save time while creating. We offer science-based inspiration in seconds. A chef can gain valuable time using our tools instead of endless trial & error.

Furthermore, the market is looking for new experiences. As a chef it's a challenge to come up with new ideas constantly. 40% of new generations choose a new dish or cuisine each time they go out to eat. Unexpected ingredient combinations will become the norm, and we want to help chefs keep up with that demand.

But maybe the biggest value of Foodpairing is our ability to spark ideation for novel concepts. The Foodpairing tool has helped numerous young entrepreneurs in developing new food concepts, such as food trucks with inspiring popcorn flavors, creative cocktail spaces, and food bars.

Q: What role (if any) do you see professional chefs or bartenders playing in a future where Foodpairing technology is the norm? Do you envision any role for trial-and-error flavor testing?

A: Foodpairing is only a starting point for a recipe creation. Finding flavor combinations is easy with the use of Foodpairing; the real challenge is making that combination work into a balanced dish that consumers will enjoy. We reinforce chef's creativity and help them discover links between ingredients they wouldn’t have made themselves, but they still have to choose the ingredients they’ll pair and strike the balance between aroma, taste, and texture. As a chef, there will always be the craftsmanship that goes into making the final recipe.

On a consumer level, I envision completely different scenarios. In the foreseeable future, the smart kitchen will enable personalized foods with instant creation. A spin-off from the Foodpairing company showcases this already today, in which we combine the Foodpairing algorithms, AI and robotics to create tailor-made drinks.

 Foodpairing technology matches strawberries with complementary flavors. 

Foodpairing technology matches strawberries with complementary flavors. 

 

Q: You state that one of the goals of Foodpairing is “to promote healthy, sustainable lives.” How do you see a company aimed at innovative flavor pairings helping to promote nutrition and sustainability in the food system?

A: Our long-term objective is to become the leading platform for personalized food recommendation. Why? Because we believe that food and exciting combinations can improve the quality and joy of everyday life. It’s no secret that our food system is out of balance. Global issues such as climate change, sustainability and obesity are directly related to food. By gradually changing the way we eat, we can restore our planet and lead healthful lives. And changing the way we eat is easier when we’re presented with flavorful alternatives. Foodpairing strives to be a part of the solution by promoting flavor.

Today our technology is available to power applications within e-grocery, smart kitchen and mobile health apps to leverage personalized recommendation that are healthy, sustainable but most of all taste delicious.  

Q: What’s next for Foodpairing? How do you see it growing over the next 5, 10, and 20 years?

A: Our long-term vision is centered around the "holy trinity" of sustainable, healthy and flavorful food.

A lot of people are stuck in a boring, single-dimensional food pattern that can lead to things like excess weight gain. 150 million citizens in the U.S. today are living with some form of a chronic disease or have special dietary restrictions. 80% of cases of cardiac disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancers could be avoided through improved lifestyle choices, including those related to diet. Therefore, there is a need for personalized dietary solutions, which we can provide with Foodpairing.

We also want to create a more sustainable food system. For decades, the Western world believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about our diet’s effect on the environment and its sustainability. We need a way to produce healthier, saner, less damaging and more enduring food. Our motto for this is "Eat different, eat personalized," which touches on everything from:

  • Food happiness

  • Health and wellbeing

  • Cost to society

  • Smart cooking and the digital kitchen

  • Sustainability.

So we are striving to solve health issues from a flavor perspective. We believe that discovering exciting new flavor combinations, especially healthy ones, can improve our enjoyment of food and the quality of everyday life. Flavor is the unique entry point to tackle this problem that distinguishes Foodpairing from any other players in this domain. Our ambition is to play a lead in personalized nutrition based on science.

In the future you might have a digital, personalized chef who will be always at hand, assisting you on-the-go with your mobile shopping, cooking, online ordering, and even drink pairing. Consumers want their personalized food or drink optimized for health, taste, cost, and mood. Kitchen tools will help them customize dishes for themselves and their family, but they need to be powered by software that can fulfill the customers’ needs instantly. That's where we come in.
Q: It’s winter, which in most parts of the world means a lot of root vegetables. What are some innovative flavors that you’d pair with the humble potato, for example?

A: The beauty of a potato is that it works with many flavors. One that I particularly enjoy is a sprinkle of freshly grounded coffee on mashed potatoes. It’s a recipe created by a famous Michelin chef based on data from Foodpairing (the recipe is on our blog).

Q: What is your favorite flavor combination you’ve ever created with Foodpairing?

A: The first true Foodpairing dish ever created, kiwitre. It’s a classic.

We'll be featuring more Q&A's with SKSEurope speakers over the next few months! Register now and stay tuned to learn about our lineup of all-stars in the food tech industry. 

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