Society has never been more informed about the environmental issues facing our planet. Issues such as global warming, marine pollution and food waste have gained mainstream attention. Sales of reusable coffee cups have soared and the EPA in Ireland reported a 15% decrease in organic waste in the general waste bin over the past ten years. Not just that, but students from around the world went on strike on Friday to protest over climate change. Solutions to the food waste issue are coming from all angles, from startups such as Obeo and Food Cloud, to established brands such as Samsung and LG. And while food waste is an issue at every stage, from production right through to eating, innovative technologies are helping consumers solve the issue right in our kitchens.
52% of consumers say that deciding what to have for dinner is the most difficult part and 30% think that pleasing the family at dinnertime is a challenge. No surprise then that food waste is almost inevitable. As smart home adoption increases, appliance manufacturers are beginning to position themselves as a reliable source of recipe inspiration to help consumers overcome the challenges the discovery phase can present. In their quest to make mealtimes as simple as possible for consumers, companies like Samsung are helping to solve the bigger issue of food waste. Their Family Hub refrigerator enables home cooks to keep track of what they have in the fridge, including expiry dates, and to search for recipes based on ingredients that need to be used up. This is a smart move. While flavour is the main factor for home cooks when choosing what to cook, the convenience and cost-saving aspects of personalised recipe suggestions that make use of leftover ingredients seems like an attractive prospect. Screens have become such an integral part of the smart kitchen with more and more mainstream appliance brands integrating them into fridges, ovens and hoods. Since environmental issues are at the forefront of our minds, it's not too much of a stretch to expect that smart appliance manufacturers will continue to invest in predictive technologies that help consumers eat well while reducing food waste.
It's not just at the discovery phase that food waste can be reduced though. Whether you're a novice cook or more experienced, we've all experienced cooking disasters that have resulted in inedible food that is only fit for the bin. Emerging precision cooking technologies can eliminate this issue. Using guided recipes and cooking presets, companies such as Hestan, Anova and June promise precise, consistent results whether you're cooking a tender, flaky pan-fried piece of fish or roasting a crispy, moist roast chicken. By promising perfect results, these companies are not only encouraging nervous cooks to take charge of the way they eat but also giving more experienced cooks the confidence to try more complicated dishes without worrying about potentially sending an expensive piece of meat from the pan to the organic waste bin.
Moving away from the discovery and cooking phase, companies such as Samsung are helping consumers reduce waste before they even buy it. We've all been there - standing in the supermarket after a busy day at work wondering how many chicken thighs we have left in the fridge, or whether we've used up all the broccoli. The Family Hub takes a photograph of the inside of your fridge and sends it to your phone, reducing the chances of buying unnecessary perishable goods. While this is particularly important in the fridge, it's something that could well be adapted to anywhere food is stored, reducing both costs and waste.
Finally, the variety of recipes available on smart kitchen appliances means that the chances of cooking something you don't like are slim. This is particularly important if you are feeding picky eaters and end up with mountains of food waste as a result. Placing recipes at the centre of the smart kitchen encourages the entire family to get involved in choosing what they'd like to eat (kids love screen!), reducing the chances of food going to waste and making things a little easier for the two-thirds of American consumers who do not know what's for dinner by 4 pm. When paired with personalisation strategies, smart appliance users are guaranteed to find a recipe that uses up those pesky leftovers and keeps the entire family happy and full. Not all recipes are created equal though. Companies such as Drop understand the importance of creating a great user experience, which is why they offer reliable, tried-and-tested content to their users via Recipe Guru. More reliable recipes mean more delicious results and less chance of food waste.
We're hugely in favour of a more collaborative approach in the smart kitchen and feel that creating a seamless smart kitchen experience for consumers relies on collaboration between brands. This is doubly important when it comes to food waste. If the inspiration, shopping and cooking phases are tied together seamlessly, it's only going to be more convenient for the consumer to create the sort of food they want to eat while reducing costs, keeping food waste to a minimum and ultimately creating a happier planet.