Smart Kitchen Notes: Juicero In Restaurant Biz, Keurig Gets Kold Feet, Pico Ships

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

In This Edition...

  • The early success of Juicero in the pro market
  • Keurig kills the Kold
  • America's Test Kitchen launching new food science site
  • PicoBrew ships the first Pico
  • Alchema connected cider maker brewing over at Hax
  • A peek at our venue for SKS 2016
  • A podcast interview with Hestan Cue chief scientist Darren Vengroff about the furture of cooking

It seems like foodtech and the connected kitchen are gaining momentum, and nowhere is that more evident than in NYC in the first half of June. Not only will the Innit debut at Pirch SoHo next week (we'll see you there!), the Big Apple is home to the Food Loves Tech event this week. 

Around the rest of the country we also saw some interesting developments in kitchen and food tech, including the news that Keurig Green Mountain will kill the Keurig Kold, growing interest in the intersection between cooking and science from America's Test Kitchen and, here in the NorthWest, PicoBrew just shipped their first Pico unit to a super backer (who wrote a review!). 

That and we investigate how Juicero is making significant headway in the restaurant and business market, a new connected cider maker that's incubating over at Hax, and we also tell you a little about our venue for Smart Kitchen Summit 2016.

Speaking of SKS16, you have just a little while longer for early bird ticket prices, so you might want to hurry on over and get your ticket today

And oh yeah, we have a great podcast interview with Hestan Cue's chief scientist, Darren Vengroff! We talk about the early days of the sous vide movement and the emergence of guided cooking. Make sure to check it out (and subscribe!). 

In Depth: The Juicero, A $700 Home Juicer, Already Finding A Home In The Pro Market

The Juicero Cold Press Home Juicer

The Juicero Cold Press Home Juicer

Like many, I initially got sticker shock when I saw the price of the Juicero, a pod-based connected cold-pressed juicing machine. At $700, the device is a bit spendy for all but the most dedicated juicers or those with lots of discretionary income.

Which is why I had lots of questions when I sat down with the company's CEO, Doug Evans, when he visited Seattle this spring to discuss the home juicer.  A natural salesmen, he didn't blink at the question and insisted he'd easily find a market for the product. I suspected he could be right, particularly since there was likely a market among upper-income home juicers who are tired of the mess and work it requires to get to athe single glass of juice. In many ways, home juicing is in the same primitive stage of expense and mess that the homebrew space has been in the last few decades prior to the arrival of new home brewing systems such as PicoBrew and Brewie. Read More

Summit news: Meet Bell Harbor, Our Venue for SKS 2016

One of the things we heard frequently from folks after last year’s Summit was how much they loved our venue. Hosted in the up and coming SODO district, the 2015 Smart Kitchen Summit space was bright and open, fostering a sense of creativity and innovation. But in our very first year, we were bursting at the seams. So this year, to keep up with demand and growth in the space, we’re moving the 2016 Smart Kitchen Summit to the gorgeous Seattle waterfront. 

The Bell Harbor International Conference Center is a bright and open space overlooking Puget Sound and gives us the space we need to fit everyone attending - from leaders in tech and smart home, food and culinary, housewares and commerce. This year, we’ll hosting an event the evening before the big day-long Summit and will include some break-out tracks in the afternoon to give even deeper customized content for all attendees. Bell Harbor gives us the space and ambiance to host an even better conference in 2016.

Early bird tickets are on sale for the summer, ending July 31 and we’ll be announcing the conference hotel and rates shortly. We look forward to seeing you in October!

Podcast: The future of cooking with Darren Vengroff

This episode of the Smart Kitchen Show features the Chief Scientist for Hestan Cue, the division of cookware giant Meyer creating a next-generation smart cooking product called the Hestan Cue.

Darren was there in the early stages of sous vide, helping to run eGullet when Nathan Myhrvold and others started frequenting the site and forming a community that would provide the foundation of what would eventually become the modern sous vide market. 

Darren and Mike discuss the early days of sous vide, the evolution of precision cooking, the emergence of a new appliance category called guided cooking systems and much more. If you're interested in the future of cooking, this is a good episode to check out.

Keurig Kills The Kold

This week we learned that Keurig Green Mountain was discontinuing the Keurig Kold home soda machine. The company would be laying off 130 workers, mostly from the pod production side of the business. 

Our Take: Like the more popular Keurig coffee machines - now, somewhat awkwardly, called Keurig Hot - the Keurig Kold used a pod-based system, only instead of coffee they made soft drinks. The problem with this idea is that unlike coffee, consumers haven't been trained to pay high prices for homemade soda, particularly home soda that doesn't taste as good as the pre-bottled stuff from Big Soda.

My feeling was the Keurig Kold would have done better if it positioned itself as a home pod-based cocktail machine, partly because consumers are used to paying more for cocktails, and most consumers don't really know how to mix cocktails themselves all that well. Whether or nor the company takes another swing at cold drinks is unclear but, if they do, they might want to make the Keurig Kold the home bartender instead of the home soda fountain. 

America’s Test Kitchen Wants to Bring Science to Cooking

Launched over two decades ago, America’s Test Kitchen has become the go-to for kitchen cooking instruction for home chefs. Now the group is looking to help take cooking to the next level, and bring new cooks into the mix, with the launch of the Cook’s Science website. The group recently announced its launch, led by executive editors Molly Birnbaum and Dan Souza and aim to add an element of narrative in order to tell stories about the intersection of science and food.

Our Take: This initiative to look at science and technology and examine how they are changing how we cook is part of a growing trend. With the emergence of Guiding Cooking Systems, meal delivery services, app-based cooking gadgets and hands-off appliance functionality, we continue to see efforts to reinvent the core concepts in cooking and appeal to the next generation of cooks in the kitchen. There is a gap in concentrated reporting around this and other related subjects, including food technology, smart kitchen, the convergence of science and tech with food and more. We hope this and other similar efforts will help tell interesting stories and spark a movement that drives the kitchen of the future.

PicoBrew Ships First Pico Unit To Superbacker

PicoBrew recently shipped its Pico unit off of the production line to one of its most ardent backers, Luke Murphy. Murphy, a long-time homebrewer based in North Bend, Washington, backed the first PicoBrew product in the Zymatic, and in a recent blog post discussed his experience with his first brew with the Pico.

From the post:

Set up was a breeze. Really fast and easy. Plug in, turn on, find and log into Wi-Fi, and then register the device on your PicoBrew account. That's it. 

As for brew day, it's just about as simple. 1) Fill up the water reservoir and the keg to the defined water level 2) Hook the keg up to the device 3)You pull out the step filter, load in the grain box and hop box, and load the step filter back in. 4) The Pico automatically recognizes the Pico Pack and loads the recipe into the machine. 5) Hit go (after giving a prompt if you want more or less hoppy and more or less ABV). This took less than two minutes.

Clean up was pretty spectacularly easy too. 1) unhook the keg 2) pull out the step filter and dump the grain and hop box into the compost 3) rinse the step filter, this is really easy as there is no residue from grain or hops 4) attached the ball lock adaptors to the line in and line out ball locks 5) have a pitcher of clean water to draw from and an empty pitcher to deposit to. The clean cycle took all of 3 minutes.

All in all, from start to finish, 2 hours and 20 minutes, only 5 minutes that needed a human.

Our Take: We think the Pico is probably one generation away from being a true mass market "Keurig for Beer", the second generation brewer from PicoBrew will certainly be important in opening up the market beyond hard-core home brewers to casual early adopters and beer enthusiasts. While Murphy is definitely a super-early adopter, his post describes an important ease-of-use around the experience we think will be important as this market expands. 

Alchema Home Cider Machine Brewing at Hax Accelerator

The Hax hardware accelerator is an interesting incubator for a variety of hardware startups, but one in particular recently caught our eye. The Alchema home cider maker is just another example of a growing trend we're seeing around connected drink makers, including the FirstBuild cold brew coffee maker and the Chime home chai maker.  Whether or not the addressable market is big enough for all of these devices is yet to be seen, but we're encouraged to see innovation around home beverages. The Alchema is hitting  Kickstarter in July. 

If you haven't subscribed to our newsletter, do so today to make sure you don't miss out on getting this analysis in your inbox every week. And while you're at it, make sure you get your tickets to the Smart Kitchen Summit soon to make sure you don't miss your opportunity to meet the leaders of the connected kitchen revolution in October. 

Mike WolfComment