Just as the Internet of Things is going mainstream, here comes … the Internet of Food.
The team behind connected kitchen startup Innit said in November they’d raised $25 million to help bring their vision for a smart food company to life. Next up: Introducing Innit to the world this spring through a partnership with the retail concept PIRCH, which is preparing to open a “Smart Kitchen” space in a showroom in Manhattan’s SoHo district.
What visitors to that space will see, among other things, is a variety of appliances and devices integrated with Innit. It will be a physical, real world manifestation of the idea behind the food startup – whose founders include Eugenio Minvielle, a former president and CEO of Unilever North America as well as president and CEO for Nestle in several regions around the world.
In short, his new company wants to be the kind of information glue connecting everything in the kitchen, including appliances, food and the people who eat it – a software layer that sits on top of appliances, with Innit also eventually loading its own sensor technology in consumer appliances somewhere down the line.
The thinking is that plenty more ought to be done to empower consumers to make better food choices by using abundant data and ubiquitous connectivity to, for example, eventually have a refrigerator take note of ingredients on hand and suggest meals. The consumer would be given step-by-step instructions on how to prepare the food.
The Innit team also envisions something like a connected oven noticing you just put a casserole inside and can automatically suggest how long it should be cooked. And that’s just the start.
The ingredients in the company’s recipe for success include smart appliances, machine learning and original content (more on that in a moment) all working together. In short, the plan at Innit – the name is a kind of pun, reflecting the team’s mission of showing you what’s in your food (what’s “in it”) and how to make better food decisions – calls for bringing not just our kitchens into the connected age, but our food, as well.
“We wanted to start with consumers in the home, one, because it’s a giant market,” Innit CEO Kevin Brown tells BGR. “Two, it’s really where people are kind of lost.
“Thirty to 40 percent of food in the kitchen goes wasted in the U.S. People struggle every day with the ‘what’s for dinner?’ question. You come home from work, you’re tired and you default to cooking the same five or six dishes. Nutritionally and just from a perspective of joy – it’s a real downer.”
Enter Innit, he continued, which wants to help people prepare meals, understand what’s in their food better and also get a better understanding of the food they have on hand. Think of the company, Brown says, like “a GPS for your kitchen.”
One of the ways consumers will interact with Innit is through a mobile app that’s coming soon. The company also envisions what it calls a “connected food platform” that will be accessible through apps and appliances.
“We want your cabbage to be able to talk to your refrigerator,” Brown says. “We want the refrigerator to eventually know when the cabbage was put in it, how long to keep it and what are some ways to use it. When you put a chicken in the oven, we want it to eventually know it weighs 3.72 pounds and that it’s free-range.”
The team’s ambitions include deeply integrating their product into consumer kitchen appliances so that kind of identification and data analysis can produce rich insights. To get there, Innit has assembled a deep bench of tech and culinary talent, with Brown – who served on the founding team at Inktomi, the search engine pioneer that got snatched up by Yahoo, in addition to building other tech firms – as an example of the former.
Minvielle is, of course, an example of the latter, as is chief development officer and co-founder Francisco Deolarte. His career highlights include holding leadership roles at big food companies like Nestle.
As a testament to the data and scientific cred backing up its ambitions, Innit also has a scientific advisory committee that includes Julio Frenk, president of the University of Miami; Raymond McCauley, biotech chair at Singularity University; Mike Liebhold, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future; and Christopher Murray, director at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Besides the eight-figure funding haul it announced in November, Innit this month announced a content and brand partnership with Good Housekeeping, which will develop original content like recipes and other food tips for Innit. Innit and Good Housekeeping will also co-host a cooking class series and demonstration at the smart kitchen opening soon.
Josh Sigel, Innit’s vice president of business development, said that space will show guests what the company believes “is the near future of the connected kitchen, and all the ways an Innit-powered kitchen can bring joy to peoples’ lives.”
“We called the company Innit, because we want you to know what’s in your food, what’s in your refrigerator, and what’s in it for you,” Minvielle said. “We want to empower you to have more information about your food.
“We believe if we can have more families cooking and eating healthy at home, that will not only make for a great business but a great impact for humanity.”