Q&A: Scott Brady, Global Product Officer, Breville

Breville is a leader in kitchen technology and is one of our sponsors of SKS 2019. Their Global Product Officer Scott Brady discussed challenges in the foodtech and smart kitchen space with us, and what Breville is doing differently:

What are the unique challenges Breville is tackling within the foodtech or smart kitchen space?

I’d say there are three main challenges;

1.       Most connected kitchen products brought to market to date don’t really seem sure what it is they’re trying to solve for the consumer. There’s been a bunch of connected products in our space like coffee makers that you can turn on from the bedroom, espresso machines that replicate the drink menus from the product’s screen on your phone, and ovens that let you post photographs of your food to Instagram while you’re cooking it. Many of them seem to have arrived by asking “what cool technical things could we try out by connecting our product?” In other words, they’re designed to satisfy the cravings of an engineer as opposed to help a consumer live a simpler, tastier or happier life. If used intelligently to solve real problems for the consumer, connectivity has great potential in the kitchen. I think the biggest use cases are:  products that get genuinely better over time, products that take something valuable but very complex and use technology to simplify it to the point it is usable, and products that bring recipe content to the product in such a way that the user gets far more out of those recipes when connected (think Joule recipe content for sous vide). Finding these use cases and ensuring we don’t get drawn in by the allure of interesting technology is a challenge that all kitchen companies need to consider, including us.

2.       The ideal process and mindset for developing software solutions is different than that of hardware. In hardware there’s an obsession at Breville at getting it perfect before release, in software it’s all about MVP. In hardware the product requirements tend to evolve throughout the process as we learn more about the problem, whereas in software the way you solve something changes a lot, but the requirements need to be locked in from the beginning.  Getting these two worlds to work together as one has been tricky. 

3.       When it comes to IoT, building a team of people broad enough to work on stack to cloud solutions but also deep enough to get the details right was a big challenge for us in the earlier stages of our IoT journey. It’s easy to find an excellent firmware engineer, or an excellent app designer, but with IoT you need to consider so many interrelated variables and make it all work together as a clever and secure system all the way from the chip to the cloud. A fun challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

Who is Breville?

Over the past 80+ years, Breville has grown to become an iconic global brand, delivering kitchen products to over 70 countries around the globe. Breville has enhanced people’s lives through the delivery of brilliant innovation and thoughtful design based on deep consumer insights, empowering people to do things more impressively or easily than they’d thought possible in their own home and ultimately allowing them to Master Every Moment.

Give us an example of an “Ah-ha!” moment where you realized tech was disrupting your industry.

A recent Breville “ah-ha!” moment came with the creation of the Smart Oven® Pizzaiolo, the first countertop electric oven to reach 750° F using the residential power limit of 1800 watts. After four years of research and development and with input from the world’s leading pizza chefs, Breville designers were able to creatively use Element IQ® — the company’s patented heating system used across its entire oven range — to produce an oven that significantly advances pizza making at home. Up to then, wood-fired brick ovens that can cost as much as $25,000 were the only indoor option for making truly authentic pizza. The reason: They produce the conductive, radiant, and convective heat at high temperatures needed to cook the crust and pizza toppings properly. Breville’s Element IQ® System uses smart algorithms to steer power to where and when it is needed, to create and maintain the ideal baking environment. When applied to the variety of pizza styles, home cooks can now obtain signature “leopard spotting” on the crusts while at the same time achieving evenly cooked toppings – all without having to rotate the pie.

What is Breville doing differently? What are you disrupting, innovating, or inventing?

We’ve recently acquired Joule and we’re busy building on that platform to improve its features, to enrich its content, and to expand the product range. The notion of properly coupling really engaging content that works seamlessly with an appliance is something that Joule has proved can work. We’re quite busy expanding on this.

We’re also working on more complex forms of connectivity where rich content is transferred quickly from the cloud to the product to solve the problems of making complex but valuable use cases really simple to unlock, and to package innovative hardware solutions in such a way that they can get better over time. We’re trying to do this without building in a smartphone or full blown computer into the product. This is breaking new ground in connected architectures and we think consumers will get real benefit from the opportunities it will unlock for them. 

What’s your company’s future vision for how foodtech will change the way we think about and interact with food?

Food is visceral yet simultaneously tangible. People have deep emotional connections to food, which manifests itself in a need to touch, feel, smell and taste ingredients and to participate in its preparation.  We don’t think technology will change or replace this, at least not for the consumers we’re designing products for. So, the questions for us are: How does technology enhance those connections, and how does it help consumers realize opportunities around food that are currently out of their grasp? 

One way is to embrace the fact that as consumers cook less, they simultaneously care more. As it becomes rarer to prepare food at home it also becomes more important to get it right. Technology can definitely help with that by accessing the computing power and knowledge of the cloud to make dumb appliances, way, way smarter and way more customizable to individual needs. This has the potential to transform some categories and experiences around food. 

Another way is to make the whole process smarter and more coordinated to take the stress out of the process and allow consumers to focus their efforts on the inspirational and creative parts of meal preparation. Having appliances work together in unison, for example, to help whole meals come together without the stress is something we think technology will help solve. 

Consumers also want fresher ingredients, less waste, more sustainability, local ingredients, a greater connection to the story behind the dish or the ingredients, and an ability to tap into the communities that matter to them — from their favorite chef living 1,000 miles away, to their neighborhood cooking groups. There is so much potential for technology to bring consumers closer to the ingredients, to help manage portion size and waste, and to bring the insights and inspirations of others they care about directly into their kitchens. 

I think technology will make all these food aspirations a reality. Nothing will replace the need to touch, feel, smell and taste ingredients and to feel a part of the cooking process. But technology can and will remove so many other pain points at the same time as it helps bring consumers closer to the ingredients, tools and people they really care about.

What are some of the challenges Breville and/or others within your industry are facing?

It’s really points two and three in my answer to the first question: designing the right hybrid development process that was right for both software and hardware and defining the way they intersect, and building a team that had the breadth, depth and architectural view to do IoT successfully. 

 

Laura ShubelComment