The kitchen is for many the heart of the home. Used for cooking, eating and catching up with family and friends, it follows that we've all developed routines that help us run our kitchens more efficiently. The smart kitchen aims to take this a step further. Free from the distractions humans deal with, technology has the potential to make every aspect of the kitchen more efficient than we ever thought possible. While efficiency is at the centre of all things smart kitchen, the process of making kitchens smart has, in many ways, moved at a snail's pace. In recent years, however, the startup space has become awash with everything from sous-vide machines to smart kitchen scales, and 2017 has been an innovative year for the connected kitchen.
Here are the smart kitchen stories that caught our eye in 2017.
1. "Recipes are dead"
Not our words (unsurprisingly) but those of Tyler Florence at Smart Kitchen Summit in October this year. This proclamation made headlines, not least because Florence has released 11 cookbooks, but it stems from his involvement with personalised connected cooking company Innit. And while there is merit in personalisation, the smart kitchen world is still betting strongly on the recipe. Jon Jenkins of Hestan Smart Cooking referred to recipes as the software of the kitchen at the same event, and Amazon and Instacart have both partnered with recipe sites to offer a convenient and efficient way for consumers to shop right from the recipes they're browsing.
2. The kitchen gets a screen
There's no doubt that 2017 was the year smart voice assistants really gained traction. We really love the idea that scrolling through your phone with flour-covered hands to find the next step in a recipe could be a thing of the past. This year, Amazon solved one of the main issues with using a voice assistant in the kitchen when they released the Echo Show, a digital assistant with a screen. Food is visual, and this hands-free device allows home cooks to watch cooking videos, see images of the finished product and re-read instructions, while Alexa helpfully reads out each recipe step. The Echo Show's on-again, off-again relationship with YouTube was the only fly in an otherwise positive ointment. And with Google set to release their own voice assistant with a screen in early 2018, competition is about to heat up in the smart kitchen.
3. Buzzfeed enters the smart cooking space
Buzzfeed has transformed the way people consume recipe content. Their short, shareable, addictive recipe videos (you start with a lasagne video and 8 cheesy recipes later you've gone down the rabbit hole) have been copied but not always matched by other food brands and retailers. Not content with millions of views - a French toast recipe video posted 11 hours ago has, at the time of writing, 24 million views - Buzzfeed Tasty has entered the smart kitchen space. The release of their One Top smart cooking device ties in nicely with their videos which made portable induction hobs an overnight sensation. This countertop hob pairs with a recipe-packed app to ensure perfect results, and its size makes it an attractive option for millennials who struggle with a lack of kitchen space. Buzzfeed has also recently partnered with Walmart to make their recipe videos shoppable.
4. BSH Home Appliances steps up focus on the connected kitchen
BSH Home Appliances, the largest appliance manufacturer in Europe with a portfolio that includes Bosch and Neff, acquired a controlling interest in recipe app Kitchen Stories in 2017. This is not BSH's first foray into the smart kitchen space. Their Home Connect app already allows consumers to control a range of appliances from their phone. The move to acquire Kitchen Stories will allow BSH to offer guided cooking in time through Home Connect and illustrates the importance of recipe content in the smart appliance space.
5. Juicero runs out of juice
It wasn't all good news in the smart kitchen in 2017. The demise of Juicero, a premium smart juicer, began when Bloomberg discovered in April that the fruit packs that were sold for use with the $400 could be squeezed faster with just your hands. Months later, Juicero announced that it was suspending sales of its juicer and fruit packs and offering refunds to those who had already made a purchase.
2017 laid the groundwork for the smart kitchen to go truly mainstream in 2018 and we're excited to play our part.