The Weekly Spoon: Juicero Layoffs, Reinventing The Vending Machine & SKS Heads to Japan

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It was another action packed week in the future of food and cooking.

News broke this past week that high profile cold-press juicing startup Juicero was to lay off 25% of its workforce. Company CEO Jeff Dunn acknowledged in a memo to employees that the company's pricing was too high and explained the need to cut costs as the company accelerated plans to move to its second generation juicer.  

It seems the startup hasn't quite fully recovered from a Bloomberg article this spring which focused on how the Juicero juice packs could be used without the machine. The article went viral, CEO Dunn's Medium post only seemed to add fuel to the fire.   

Restaurants are beginning to embrace robotics as a way to lower costs and eliminate tasks that could be hazardous for humans. But with worries about the millions of fast food jobs that often are a first stop for young employees beginning their careers, companies like Zume Pizza are taking a different path that embraces a 'cobot' culture emphasizing roles for those humans freed up from repetitive tasks taken by the bots. 

If you're like me, you've been disappointed at some point by the choices offered in your office vending machine. The good news is help is on the way. A new crop of startups are trying to reimagine the office vending machine by offering more high-tech purchase flow and fresher, healthier choices of what to eat. 

If you brew beer at home, there's a good chance you started with a Coopers Kit that utilizes extracts to allow you to skip the messy mashing stage of the brewing process.  Coopers, which is Australia's largest brewery, is bringing a new home beer brewing system to the US market after launching it in Australia last year. Their beer brewing system, which includes a beer brewer called the BeerDroid and a refrigerated dispensing system called the BeerFlo, gives market leader PicoBrew another competitor with deep pockets. 

We've got some exciting news on the Smart Kitchen Summit front: we're heading to Japan! That's right, I am very excited to be working with one of Japan's most renowned strategic consultancies in SigmaXYZ to bring the Smart Kitchen Summit to Tokyo on August 25th. Not only do we have some of Japan's biggest food and appliance players coming to discuss what they're up to, we're also bringing some of the west's most innovative companies to Tokyo to discuss their visions.  You can read my post about it here and visit the event page here where you can buy tickets.

Hey startups: are you planning on coming to the Smart Kitchen Summit? If you're working on an innovative new product that changes the way we think about food, cooking or the kitchen itself, you really shouldn't miss it.

Here's how to participate: apply to be a Startup Showcase Finalist (if you're early stage) or shoot us a note about startup sponsorship. We'll give you a few tickets and a table to show off your demo to industry execs, VCs and the press. 

And once again: Early bird tickets to SKS will be gone after July 31 and with a 25% coupon code for newsletter readers, now is the time to get registered. October will be here before we know it.

Have a great week.


In the 07/18/2017 edition:

Innovative Approaches Bringing Urban Farming To Cities Across The Globe

By Allen Weiner on Jul 18, 2017 09:39 am
Across the globe, innovators are working to make fresh, locally grown food more accessible to city dwellers via urban farming. In Paris, where consumers pay a premium for fresh everything, the concept of urban farming might lead locals to turn up their nose. Agricool, a French startup, is hoping to dot the country’s landscape with […]
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BrewArt, The HomeBrew System From Australian Giant Coopers, Hits Kickstarter Goal

By Michael Wolf on Jul 17, 2017 10:11 am
If at first you don’t succeed, run another crowdfunding campaign. That’s exactly what the people behind home beer brewing system BrewArt have done. After an aborted campaign in March in which they only raised just under $3 thousand after three weeks, the BrewArt is already in the money after hitting their $30 thousand goal in just one week. […]
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Doritos By Drone? It Could Take A While

By Allen Weiner on Jul 17, 2017 05:48 am
Drone delivery holds great promise, but federal and local regulators in the US are moving cautiously towards a future in which everything from beer to burritos are delivered to our home by air.
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Startups Aim To Bring Fresher Choices To The Office Vending Machine

By Michael Wolf on Jul 15, 2017 08:31 am
Office life can often mean tight deadlines, which in turn often means making tough choices like ‘Funyuns or Fritos?’ when lunch rolls around. But for those of us who believe that no time starved employee should have to sustain themselves on bags full of salt and high fructose corn syrup, things may be looking up: a new crop of startups are […]
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Juicero To Lay Off 25% of Staff As It Accelerates Plans For Gen-2 Juicer

By Michael Wolf on Jul 14, 2017 11:11 am
Juicero, the high-profile connected juicer startup founded by cold-press juice pioneer Doug Evans, is laying off 25% percent of its staff in an attempt to lower costs as it accelerates the development of a second generation juicer. According to a report in Fortune, Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn sent a letter to employees which said the company is planning to lay […]
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Building Wine and Meat Molecule by Molecule

By Sam Dean on Jul 14, 2017 08:29 am
“Engineering wines to perfection molecule by molecule.” That’s the tagline of Ava Winery, which is creating synthetic wines without grapes, yeast, or even fermentation. Mardonn Chua and Alec Lee are the entrepreneurs behind Ava Winery. They create compounds with ethanol that mimic the chemical composition of wines, but that will sell for much less money. […]
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Your Face Is Your Key: Exploring Facial Recognition with TrueFace’s Shaun Moore

By Michael Wolf on Jul 14, 2017 06:15 am
Back in 2014, Shaun Moore and his cofounder Nezare Chafni started selling a consumer video doorbell called Chui with facial recognition technology. They eventually realized the future of the company was not in doorbells, but in developing robust facial recognition and detection technology that could be applied to a variety of scenarios.
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Vine to Cart: Grocery Stores Use New Tech To Create In Store Farms

By Ashley Daigneault on Jul 13, 2017 06:10 am
While the demand for organic and sustainable agriculture is growing across the globe, the future of fresher produce might be picking it right at the supermarket. A startup out of Berlin called Infarm is currently working on an “indoor vertical farming” system with the capacity to grow any kind of fruit, vegetable or herb.  Multiple sensors […]
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Robot or Cobot? Companies Taking Varying Paths As Food Robots Reach Viability

By Allen Weiner on Jul 12, 2017 10:00 am
Flying in the face of the claim of being “the best first job in America,” burger chains and other fast food eateries are on the brink of replacing young workers with machines. Labor costs (especially the fight for a higher minimum wage) and shrinking profits are driving changes. Specifically, the strategic move is to deploy self-service […]
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Tovala Pairs Smart Appliance Innovation With Meal Kit Convenience

By Ashley Daigneault on Jul 12, 2017 08:17 am
Last year at the Smart Kitchen Summit’s Startup Showcase, David Rabie stood next to a black box, one that resembled a microwave of the future or maybe even a toaster oven. Rabie’s company Tovala was making a smart steam oven that was connected to an app and able to perfectly cook certain meals with a […]
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