BY BENJAMIN BOURINAT
DIRECTOR OF MEDIA STRATEGY, SOPEXA
A few months ago, Sopexa’s global foodie study saw that American foodies are more independent and experimental than ever, leveraging their savviness to find and own new products at home. And while tech experts were overall underwhelmed at this year’s CES, home innovation exploded on the scene with some exciting products that are going to revolutionise how the food and beverage industry addresses consumers.
The continued success of Keurig K-cups, Nespresso pods, and the SodaStream has finally inspired the alcoholic beverage industry to take action. Building on the popularity of single-serve at-home coffee in the US, three startups made a splash – 10-Vins, PicoBrew, and Somabar – revealing technologies that remove a lot of the labour that comes with drink consumption.
Your personal sommelier at home
10-Vins, which represented the French Tech at this year’s show (and won the Best Startup Award 2016) introduced D-Vine, a “personal sommelier” that properly aerates and decants wine at home. Like pods for an automated coffee machine, D-Vine requires owners to use specially designed 10cl bottles, which contain a particular wine of choice. The machine then spits out these selected wines at the optimal temperature and aeration by scanning RFID (radio frequency identification) chips within the vials. Owners must purchase the bottles separately, either by themselves or as part of a variety pack through 10-Vins, which then suggests the wines to pick. The D-Vine machine costs $599, and individual vials range from roughly $2 or $3 to $10. The United States being the number one wine market in the world, D-Vine may drastically impact the way Americans buy and consume wine, all the while allowing producers to package and brand their wines differently.
Get in on the at-home brewing action
PicoBrew roughly imitates this same single-serve process for craft beer, but with the entire brewing process entirely. Users order PicoPak, prepackaged boxes of grain and hops that you simply insert into the machine. Inside, a scanner reads a barcode on the top and downloads the recipe from PicoBrew’s database. Users can adjust the ABV and the bitterness with a simple turn of the dial, but otherwise everything is automated. PicoBrew’s database allows brands to engage consumers directly through the sharing of recipes via its app while PicoPaks represent a way for brewers to get in on the at-home brewing action: with more than 100 packages to choose from, PicoPaks come from notable brands such as Rogue, Dogfish Head and Elysian.
For spirits, while Somabar doesn’t distill your own alcohol, it will automate the craft cocktail process. The machine features six 750ml chambers (SomaPods), each filled with a standard cocktail ingredient and outfitted with an electronic tag that connects it to a corresponding app. To be retailed at $430, the startup is already in distribution talks with luxury retailers and working towards licensing deals with big-name liquor companies to sell their branded SomaPods. For now, however, these SomaPods are manually filled by the user and no big-name companies have signed on as of yet.
Clearly, the applications for these technologies – should they prove to be a lasting entry to home tech and not a nifty party trick for those with cash to burn – will be a differentiator for any food and drink brand willing to distinctively sell their products in a new format.
In addition, CES saw a hint of innovation by placing the point of sale in our kitchen appliances with the Samsung TV Fridge and wider-spread integration of Amazon’s Alexa.
Whether or not it will prove a boon or a boondoggle, the Samsung TV fridge headlines a shopping app from MasterCard. It lets you buy groceries right from the door, and the intelligent part is that it can combine carts from multiple stores. This could help brands lead the consumer journey across the entire purchase funnel. At launch, users can order from FreshDirect and ShopRite, and MasterCard says that more stores will be added throughout 2016. It also has three cameras inside that take an image every time the door closes, and you can then check your levels of milk from a companion Android or iOS smartphone app. There is no answer yet on advertising on the Samsung TV fridge, but it’s certainly an exciting prospect for food and drink brands to bring their messages directly to consumers at home and tie in with their immediate purchasing decisions through the fridge.
Amazon’s Alexa, their answer to Siri and already proving overwhelmingly popular in the Amazon Echo, is being adopted by more and more non-Amazon companies in the home-tech sphere. It makes sense that Alexa serves as a point-of-sale solution: Alexa provides access to a large audience and connects brands and users to the largest online retailers. While it’s mostly been utilised by the smart appliance industry to automate lighting, audio, and heating systems, it’s a data-driven connected system that could change our concept of where, when and how consumers make their purchasing decisions.
Odds and ends
Coming fresh off the heels of immediate fridge monitoring comes a gadget that can instantly detect the calories of what you’re about to eat. The DietSensor scans the molecules of “homogeneous” food – a slice of bread, a piece of cheese, but not a sandwich all at once – and communicates the calories to consumers right away. While the idea of widespread adoption seems a little far-fetched now, it is a new tech innovation that brands can leverage to capture insights from foodies and health junkies, and then leverage that data to stay ahead of the curve.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020