One of Croatia's Biggest Packaged Food Companies Just Invested In A Robot Chef Startup

Late last year, one of Croatia’s biggest packaged food conglomerates, Podravka, invested in a robotic home chef startup called GammaChef.

It’s an interesting move for such a storied company. Podravka, which was founded in 1934, started as a fruit factory before eventually becaming nationalized as part of Yugoslavia in 1947. With the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90s, Croatia gained independence and soon the company was privatized. Now, nearly 80 years after its founding, the company has invested in its first startup, a robotic home cooking company.

What about this robotic cooking startup did Podravka find interesting? Find out over at The Spoon where we interviewed GammaChef's CEO, Dražen Drnas.

Check out our CES coverage at The Spoon!

In case you haven't noticed, we've shifted our smart kitchen and foodtech coverage from this blog to the Spoon, our new editorial site focused on the future of food, cooking and the kitchen.

We will continue to use this blog to highlight Smart Kitchen Summit news (including SKS17 - stay tuned for news VERY soon), but make sure to check out The Spoon for daily coverage of companies, deals and trends shaping the future of the connected kitchen!

Smart Kitchen Notes: SKS16 Pics are Here, Teforia Raises $12 Mil, SideChef Launches CHiP

This is Smart Kitchen Notes, our newsletter with news and analysis about the connected kitchen and the Smart Kitchen Summit. 

In This Edition...

  • SKS16 Pics
  • SideChef announces CHiP, a smart cookie oven
  • Teforia infused with $12 Million series A
  • Juicero's Doug Evans hands CEO reigns to Coca-Cola exec
  • Interview with culinary madman & inventor, Dave Arnold
  • Wall Street Journal's Wilson Rothman on the future of cooking
  • Hands-on with the Nima gluten sensor
  • What does the Mirai botnet attack mean for the smart kitchen?
  • Amazon announces 60 new Dash button partners

The Smart Kitchen Summit was only a month ago, but we've already seen lots of action in the connected kitchen since Seattle including new funding for Teforia, SideChef launching their own hardware and a new CEO at Juicero.

But first, let's talk pics. We knew we wanted to document our second annual Summit with photos, and that's why we tapped the talents of two amazing photographers. The first is Pinar Ozger, who not only is the go-to photographer for events from the likes of Gigaom, but also is an award-winning documentarian. Pinar captured the main conference day and you can find all those pics here. 

The Startup Showcase was photographed by the talented Heather Colwill, a good friend who I knew would capture the excitement on display through the 15 innovative startups who participated in the event. 

We also have started to post videos of the sessions over at the Spoon and we'll keep putting up new content over the next couple weeks.Check those out here.

If you haven't yet subscribed to the Spoon newsletter, please do so now.The Spoon is our site where we are tracking the evolution of the connected kitchen, the future of cooking and more on a daily basis.

We've had lots of inquiries from folks interested in contributing to the Spoon - if you have a good idea for a thought piece on this space, send us a message and we can chat.

Now for the news:

SideChef Continues Expansion Efforts With CHiP Cookie Oven

SideChef is having a busy year. In April they announced their intention to move beyond a cooking app to create a smart kitchen software platform for hardware makers. Then came the hire of former DACOR President, Steve Joseph, as their Chief Product Officer. Then came a partnership with Chef’d to create chef-curated meal delivery service.

Tea Startup Teforia Gets $12 Million Infusion In Series A Round

Last year at the inaugural Smart Kitchen Summit, there was a small team gathered around a high-top round table pouring delicious tea for Summit attendees. Their startup, Teforia, was still relatively unknown, having officially introduced itself only a week earlier. A few months later, Teforia announced a $5.1 million seed funding round and began the work of evangelizing the magic its technology was attempting to bring to tea drinkers everywhere. Accepting around 500 pre-orders to early backers, the company is now about to start early shipping and has just announced a $12 million Series A round led by Translink Capital.

Juicero’s Doug Evans On Why Now Was The Right Time To Step Down As CEO

Less than two weeks after he appeared on stage at the Smart Kitchen Summit, Juicero’s Doug Evans made a splash last week by announcing he was stepping down as the company’s CEO and handing the day to day reigns of his high profile connected juicer company to former Coca-Cola North America President Jeff Dunn. Evans will remain Chairman of the company and focus on building strategic relationships.

Interview With the Greats: Dave Arnold on Innovation in the Kitchen

Dave Arnold never stops. The fortysomething owner of Manhattan cocktail bar Booker & Dax is exactly the kind of madman inventor that we need to push the food world forward, and lucky for us, he’s always working on a cool project. Even luckier, he always wants to tell you all about it.

Wall Street Journal’s Wilson Rothman Talks About The Future of Cooking

As the personal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, it’s Wilson Rothman’s job to write about the technology that impacts consumers in their everyday life. Whether e-readers, Macbooks, or new mobile phones, if it’s a popular consumer platform, chances are Rothman has covered it.

Hands On With The Nima Gluten Free Sensor

After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder over a year ago, I dove into researching how I could be proactive. What kinds of vitamins, foods, exercises could I take on to stave off the effects of the disease and remain a healthy thirty-something mom with a busy job and personal life? It didn’t take long to discover that things like gluten and dairy were among the top triggers of inflammation in the body. I began the process of removing them from my daily diet.

An Explainer: The Impact of The Mirai Botnet Attack On The Smart Kitchen

Last week, one of the worst fears of Internet of Things (IoT) industry insiders was realized when someone took advantage of security holes in connected devices like netcams and home routers to create a botnet attack on popular websites like Twitter and Soundcloud.

Amazon Announces The PoopBag Button (And 59 More Brands) As Dash Continues To Grow

If you think Amazon is betting the future entirely on the voice interface, think again. That’s because despite a huge bet on Alexa and all things voice, the company is also ensuring our homes will be filled with lots of new physical interfaces in the future, especially those tailored towards replenishing our cupboards and closets with everything from toilet paper to garbage bags.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for updates in the coming month on SKS17 and other events.

- Michael Wolf

Smart Kitchen Summit 2016 Pictures Are Here!

Hard to believe SKS16 was almost a month ago, but don't worry, we've got some pics to relive an amazing week of conversation, education and collaboration.

We all the pics from the Startup Showcase and the full conference main day. Check them out!

A few of our favorites:

Nathan Myhrvold talking dino burgers and the future of cooking

Nathan Myhrvold talking dino burgers and the future of cooking

Nikhil Bhogal of June listening to Reviewed.com's David Kender

Nikhil Bhogal of June listening to Reviewed.com's David Kender

Members of the audience listening to an SKS16 session

Members of the audience listening to an SKS16 session

The Startup Showcase: a packed room featuring lots of cool innovation

The Startup Showcase: a packed room featuring lots of cool innovation

We'll also have some of our videos up at The Spoon. Keep checking back there for more videos in coming days. 

Q&A With NXP's Dan Viza

NXP's Dan Viza

NXP's Dan Viza

Today's Q&A is with Dan Viza, the Director, RF Heating Products at NXP Semiconductors. 

SKS: What problem is your company trying to solve that current kitchen or food industry technology doesn’t?

Viza: You can put a lot of technical jargon around what we are doing but at the end of the day, we are working to deliver capability that allows for a level of automation in the cooking process while also striving to match or improve the quality of the outcome. The whole process of sourcing, storing, preparing, and cooking can be a labor for many of us, even those who find enjoyment in cooking, when time constrains us. Bringing elements of automation can help reduce the time needed and at the same time help deliver an outcome that is more deterministic.

SKS: How has technology in the kitchen changed over the last decade and where is it headed?

Viza: I think the last 2-3 years has seen more adoption of technology in the kitchen than the 7 years prior to that. We’ve seen incremental changes in appliance electronics like touch based controls and interfaces, and the addition of connectivity to appliances. Now we are seeing the availability of useful services to leverage those connected end points, as well as the emergence of software stacks and protocols for interacting between devices and cloud services. This is affecting the sourcing of goods, the inventory management of our kitchens, and the automation of our inventory and cooking processes.

SKS: Tell us about an important “a-ha” moment in creating your product or growing your business.

Viza: We have had several “a-ha” moments along the way that have given us confidence we are on the right track. This includes validating our performance capability in meeting efficiency and controlling the cooking energy, customer interest in use of our solid state cooking solutions, and the overall increase in companies investing in the smart kitchen appliance space. NXP offers a span of solid state cooking solutions with the components, modules and reference design to enable our customers to implement in end products. Visit http://www.nxp.com/RFcooking for more details.

SKS: What do you see as a potential pitfall or challenge that the smart kitchen industry will face as it continues to grow?

Viza: We will likely see challenges that have faced other markets and applications as the emergence of new technologies and solutions evolve. These include higher initial costs for hardware or solutions that only early adopters may be willing to pay, complexity in products or services that may confuse or limit consumer adoption, and proliferation of competing alternatives or lack of de-facto standards which can limit adoption due to lack of interoperability.

SKS: What’s your go-to gadget or product in the kitchen that you can’t live without?

Viza: My coffee/espresso maker. Can’t start a day without it.

Q&A With Innit's Kevin Brown

                                    Kevin Brown, CEO of Innit

                                    Kevin Brown, CEO of Innit

Today's Q&A is with Kevin Brown, CEO of Innit. Kevin is participating in the panel, "The Kitchen OS: Bridging Islands in the Connected Kitchen". You can read more about Kevin here.

SKS: How is the Innit platform using data to disrupt the purchase, storage & cooking of the food in our kitchens?

Brown: A lot of technologies today are connecting things to things.  You can connect your doorbell to your tea kettle, but it's not clear what problems that really solves.  In contrast, Innit unlocks the information within food, and connects it to kitchen appliances to empower consumers.  By digitizing the information within food itself, and making that information available throughout the cooking ritual, Innit can address challenges across all stages of the food lifecycle.  By enabling your fridge to recognize and track inventory, we can reduce food waste, and provide inspiration for the stressful question of "what's for dinner?"  Your kitchen can recognize your food and provide just-in-time how-to videos, providing confidence to try new dishes, much like GPS empowers driving.  Finally, once a recipe is selected and prep is done, the platform can send a 15-step Michelin star recipe to your WiFi oven with a single click, enabling restaurant-quality results with just a few minutes of preparation.  Once your kitchen can listen to food, everything changes.

SKS: Can you share an “ah-ha” moment for the Innit team as you were building the platform and how it contributed to where you are today?
 
Brown: We had to invent the first "self-cooking ovens" in 2013-14 because there was no hardware platform that could recognize food, collect detailed sensor data, and provide precise programming of heating elements.  Using these prototype ovens, we were able to achieve amazing results that blew away some of the world's top chefs.  The ah-ha moment for us was when we realized we could port these recipes to run on today's generation of WiFi-enabled ovens, and get nearly the same level of quality.  We needed the advanced devices to generate machine-readable recipes, but we now had a way to deliver them to millions of kitchens in the near future.

SKS: How can the emerging connected kitchen industry avoid some of the challenges of the broader smart home space and its slow adoption?

Brown: A lot of IoT and smart home initiatives start with a technology, and search for a problem.  Connecting devices to the Internet is a good first step, but it doesn't inherently deliver benefits.  Opportunity starts with real-world consumer challenges, and orchestrating multiple devices to serve the consumer's needs.  Innit spent three years in stealth mode developing technologies, but more importantly identifying innovative ways to solve existing consumer challenges with food.If we end up needing to launch six apps to prepare dinner with our various smart gadgets, that will be a fail. We envision a much different workflow, centered around consumers and the food itself, where the different stages are seamlessly orchestrated using the features of each device in the kitchen.  Innit is working hard to build that "Food OS" in the kitchen that can unlock the best functionality within each appliance, while minimizing complexity for the user.

SKS: What’s the most exciting aspect of the convergence of kitchen and technology to you?

Brown: Every other part of our life has become digitized – music, movies, video, taxi cabs, hotels – with major jumps in value and convenience.  Food has lagged behind in innovation, with major impacts to stress, economics, sustainability, and wellness.  The Innit team is passionate about empowering people through food, and helping them eat and live better. We are excited to deliver technologies that can help millions of families get the most out of their food.
 
SKS: What’s your go to gadget or product in the kitchen that you can’t live without?

Brown: When cooking manually on the stovetop,my go-to device is my Lodge cast iron pan ($19.99).  It delivers an incredible amount of searing power to lock in moisture and generate flavor, and it's very consistent on low heat over longer periods.  There's no substitute for protons (26) and neutrons (30).

The Smart Kitchen Summit is next week! If you want to hear Kevin Brown and other leaders talk about the future of the kitchen, cooking and foodtech, get your ticket today!

Q&A With Reviewed.com's David Kender

David Kender, Reviewed.com

David Kender, Reviewed.com

Once or twice a week for the next month, we'll be sharing insights from one of our speakers about the opportunities and challenges the industry faces while also hearing a little about how they got started. Today's Q&A is with David Kender, Sr Vice President of Editorial at Reviewed.com, who will moderate the panel entitled, "The Self-Driving Oven: The Next Generation of Technology That Will Define The Kitchen". You can read more about David here.

SKS: How has consumer technology for the home and kitchen changed over the last decade?
 
Kender: At least as far as I’ve experienced it, there seems to be a fundamental schism between expectations for innovation in the kitchen compared to the rest of the home.
 
The smartphone was clearly the spark in the powder house, birthing grand expectations for the revolution of, well, everything else. But perhaps it has also left some industries—particularly appliance manufacturers—scratching their heads. Just what does “smart kitchen” mean?
 
The market rejected most early implementations of phone-like touchscreen interfaces on appliances. It seemed that people didn’t appreciate the unwanted layer between them and their tools. And they certainly weren’t willing to pay extra for the inconvenience.
 
Particularly in the US, cooking remains rooted in tradition and slow to adopt technologies that stray too far from “how mom did things”. You need look no further than the continued popularity of gas cooktops despite the numerous benefits of induction.
 
So despite seismic upheavals in the way people consume entertainment in their home, communicate with friends and family in their home, work from home, etc., the kitchen revolution has been sluggish out of the gate.
 
Few people want to watch TV just like their parents, or use Facebook just like their parents, but many would be perfectly happy to cook just like their parents. If the ”dumb” oven was good enough for all those past Thanksgivings, there’s little credence in the assertion that WiFi would make next Thanksgiving better.
 
SKS: What’s the most exciting aspect of the emerging smart kitchen industry right now?
 
Kender: The most exciting thing happening in the smart kitchen space is that companies are slowly starting to realize that they can’t create a walled garden ecosystem and expect success. Apple has set unrealistic expectations that, just because they managed to do it in smartphones, some other company can do it in the kitchen. There are too many products and too many different kinds of behavior in the kitchen that no one ecosystem can or should contain them all—at least not right now.
 
So when new smart appliances are rolling out, it’s heartening to see that they may tout a marquee partnership—Bosch and Drop, GE and Alexa—but that the underlying technology and opportunity is there for the product to work with other ecosystems.
 
SKS: What kinds of products in the connected kitchen space do you see becoming mainstream in every consumer home?
 
Kender: The smaller, more quickly replaced items stand a better chance of early adoption than the giant steel boxes do. Countertop appliances like scales, microwaves, sous vide—the buy-in is much less steep and consumers will be willing to take a chance if the price isn’t outrageous.
 
It’s also vital to consider the products that no one imagined in the first place. The Amazon Echo isn’t replacing anything; Amazon simply willed it into being. The smart speaker no one was asking for is now a beloved and genuinely useful companion in tens of thousands of kitchens.
 
SKS: The smart home has been met with a fair amount of skepticism from both the media and the consumer market - do you think the smart kitchen will face the same?
 
Kender: Take the uphill battles that other smart home products face, double the incline, and you have a sense of what the smart kitchen is up against.
 
The skepticism among consumers is not ill founded by any means. There have been very few products I’ve seen that hit the sweet spot between “I can afford that” and “makes my life easier”. And that latter quality is a tough nut to crack because consumers aren’t gullible about features that claim to make your life easier, only to present them with a huge learning curve as soon as they take it out of the box.
 
Large appliance makers face an additional challenge due to the incredibly long replacement cycles: up to ten years or more for a fridge or an oven. So when a customer is standing in the aisle looking at a super-smart oven with all the techno goodies, somewhere in the back of their head they’re wondering if when it comes time to sell the house, they’ll have the equivalent of a Motorola RAZR taking up 20 cubic feet in their kitchen.
 
SKS: What’s your go to gadget or product in the kitchen that you can’t live without?
 
Kender: I brought this question up to my wife recently, as she’s far more adept in the kitchen than I am and revels in cooking blogs and Instagram accounts. Our responses could not have been farther apart, and demonstrate how large a gap the smart kitchen industry has to reconcile. “My chef’s knife,” was her reply. “My smartphone” was mine.
 
Literally the oldest technology in the kitchen versus the bleeding edge of personal computing. Her choice is the go-to hand tool for preparing the foods she loves. Mine is the distraction device that gets me through the chores of cooking and cleaning, with occasional assistance on how to get stains out of clothes or the best way to store leafy greens in the fridge.
 
I don’t know where the middle ground is there, but I’m confident neither one of us wants a Bluetooth knife. 

The Smart Kitchen Summit is happening is in two weeks! If you want to hear David Kender and other leaders talk about the future of the kitchen, cooking and foodtech, get your ticket today!

Q&A With Nikhil Bhogal of June

Nikhil Bhogal, June

Nikhil Bhogal, June

Once or twice a week for the next month, we'll be sharing insights from one of our speakers about the opportunities and challenges the industry faces while also hearing a little about how they got started. Today's Q&A is with Nikhil Bhogal, the CTO of June, who will participate in a pane at the Smart Kitchen Summit entitled "The Self-Driving Oven: The Next Generation of Technology That Will Define The Kitchen". You can read more about Nikhil here.

KS: What is driving innovation and invention in the kitchen space now and what will our kitchens look like in 10 or 20 years from now?

Bhogal: The kitchen hasn’t seen much innovation in the past 50 years - after the first home use microwave in the late 60s and the dishwasher in the 70s, the space has failed to stay up with what’s going on around it. Not that there hasn’t been innovation in cooking - it’s certainly happening but tends to only be available to the chefs running restaurants, or from commercial appliances or high-end appliance makers.

IoT infrastructure, mobile hardware, sensors and advances in machine learning make it possible to bring June to market today, something that wasn’t possible even a few years ago.  We’re starting to see a lot of new technologies and use-cases emerge, and think that this will only continue to progress in the next decade or so. At June, we’re excited about the convergence of this high user-experience and IoT technology and what it means for our consumers – quick, delicious and healthy food.

SKS: There’s an emerging standards and platforms conversation happening in the smart kitchen as more devices and services roll out; do you see this becoming a divisive issue in adoption down the road?

Bhogal: Today, there’s no cohesive platform that brings all these new emerging technologies together. It’s a hard problem and there’s some really smart people who are working to solve it through things like smart home automation or the Apple Home Kit, but a complete solution or platform is still years away. We believe that with thoughtful software and hardware architecture products can be compatible with a variety of ecosystems. We’re hyper focused on creating a great product that uses today’s technology to cook delicious food just the way you like it.

SKS: What’s the main problem June is trying to address in the kitchen?

Bhogal: It’s hard to cook a good meal, let alone eat healthy. No matter how many times you’ve done it, roasting a chicken can feel like a game of chicken (“Should I take it out now? How about now?”). Ovens are uncertain, and the difference between irresistibly good and barely edible is just a matter of minutes.

June is a new kind of oven that takes the chance out of cooking by making sure your meal comes out exactly how you want it, every time. June can actually see that your chicken is a chicken and recommend how best to cook it. Then there’s no need to hover, because June keeps tabs on your meal and makes adjustments on the fly, like getting the chicken to your desired temperature and switching to broil to get the skin crispy at the end. When June is done cooking, it sends a message to your phone that dinner’s ready, and you know before you even make the first cut that it’s exactly how you wanted.

SKS: There’s a lot of buzz around consumer adoption and skepticism in the smart home space - do you think the kitchen will suffer from the same issues?

Bhogal: Innovation without purpose is rarely a good thing. Smart homes aim to solve a different set of problems than those in the kitchen, such as environmental comfort, energy efficiency, security and convenience. The promise relies on a multitude of devices talking to one another, and so the skepticism stems from the fragmentation of vendors making these devices in addition to the high cost of putting together a full suite of products, and the incompatibility between major ecosystems.

I’m optimistic that the kitchen can overcome this by creating products that perform well, deliver enjoyable cooking experiences and offer compatibility with major ecosystems. This can be achieved with forward-looking engineering and thoughtful messaging.

The Smart Kitchen Summit is happening is in three weeks! If you want to hear Nikhil Bhogal and other leaders talk about the future of the kitchen, cooking and foodtech, get your ticket today!