Merging Food, Tech and Experience
October 14, 2019
Now in its fifth year, the Smart Kitchen Summit (SKS) once again brought leaders across the food and cooking ecosystems to Seattle to discover new technologies and solutions that merge food, kitchens and technology. KBB participated in the more than 50 sessions and talks, interactive workshops and live interactive demos showcased to find out what’s hot now and what’s to come in this growing space. There were some major overarching themes prevalent at the summit this year, including:
Being Eco-Friendly. The environment and the impact the food industry makes on it topped the list of hot topics. Plant-based diets are growing in popularity, and manufacturers are working to create appliances, apps and educational services that make sticking to this type of diet easier. Companies are also working to appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers with energy-efficient appliances or those with more natural components that lack VOCs.
Bringing Back the Happy Home Chef. Along with the focus on the environment, research shows that consumers want to know how to cook healthier for themselves and their families, but they fail to know how and lack motivation. According to SKS speaker Nancy Roman, CEO of the Partnership for Healthier America, in 2006 average daily prep and cleaning time in the kitchen was 60 minutes, and in 2016 this decreased to 36 minutes. However, the amount of time consumers reported actually enjoying eating and drinking at meals decreased from 78 percent to 73 percent. Manufacturers are trying to figure out how to adjust this and make eating and cooking more of a joyful experience, perhaps through decision-making apps or appliances that help take the stress out of cooking.
Rethinking the Basics of Kitchen Design. Speaker Veronica Schreibeis Smith, founder of Vera Iconica Architecture, targeted another predominant conversation at the event: To help consumers eat better, we need to start rethinking about how the kitchen is designed. Smith argued that for the most part, the core of a kitchen design has remained the same for the last 50 years, and something drastic needs to change. She suggested that kitchen designers specify visual food displays – like more glass cabinets – that encourage the consumer to use the fresh ingredients they buy. Hydroponic growing cabinets should become a staple, allowing families to always have fresh and healthy food on hand. Designers need to be more aware of what materials go into a space and whether harmful chemicals are used, and wellness features like circadian lighting should be a must.
More trends and topics we picked up from the show include:
Reducing Food Waste
According to the FDA, in the U.S., wasted food is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply annually. This estimate corresponds to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food per year. Companies like StixFresh are combating this by working to make produce last longer. This simple sticker’s all-natural coating, made up of specially sourced wax and other natural ingredients, creates a protective layer around fruit and can extend the freshness of many fruits by up to 14 days.
Transparency & Health
Consumers are increasingly well educated about what is in the products they buy and how those might impact their health, and they are increasingly demanding about knowing the what and where of an ingredient label. In comes appliances like LEVO (shown in top image), a countertop device that pairs with a mobile app and allows consumers to infuse oil and butter with the flavors and nutrients of herbs, fruits and other ingredients at the touch of a button. Along with creating fun and customizable dressings and marinades, it also can create health products like lip balm, lotion and soap – without unwanted additives or chemicals.
For those looking to cook healthier meals at home, there are several apps and YouTube channels that teach valuable cooking skills. However, companies like FET are taking basic culinary education a step further. FET is a kitchen backsplash that doubles as a digital screen and features on-demand and live cooking classes. Available with voice command, FET allows users to choose a class based on duration, chef, cuisine, diets and more.
With those skills consumers are picking up, they will want to cook more impressive meals with ease. The HotSpot CookTop has an arrangement of sensors under the glass, allowing it to recognize pots, pans or food placed on the surface. If an item does not have uniform thickness, the HotSpot can automatically create a heating gradient, applying more heat to the thick side and less to the thin side for evenly cooked food.
Niche Luxury Items
For those consumers even more keen on impressing family and friends, products like CocoTerra are going to be available for special occasions or just a weekend treat. CocoTerra is the world’s first tabletop, bean-to-bar chocolate maker that can make dark, milk and white chocolate in about two hours. Users can also create their own custom chocolate blends.
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