As an unashamed and self-confessed lover of eating, and cooking, I find myself increasingly fascinated in the world of online food delivery. And not fast food necessarily, but food shops. Gone are the weekly trips to Tesco, moaning as you trudge around the aisles about where the choccy digestives can possibly have been moved to now - food coming from a magical warehouse to your kitchen worktops is merely a few clicks or taps away. But we all know this, right? So why does it continue to be such a hot topic?
Well right now, we're talking automation and sustainability.
With the world’s population on track to exceed nine billion by 2050, it’s crunch time for a solution to sustainable food production. However, undermining efforts to feed the planet at every step are our attitudes to waste. Around a third of the total food produced in the world currently gets thrown away, with citizens of rich countries by far the worst offenders. Innovating the supply chain is a clear solution to improving waste and delivering the kind of food services that consumers want.
Happily, companies such as Ocado are at the cutting edge of both foodtech automation and trying to solve the food waste situation, and will continue to be the ones to watch - for consumers and investors alike. As this article in The Times (£) says, "Ocado is perfectly positioned to cash in on the growth of online grocery retailing. Because its technology is so good, it can sell it. Ocado will be a competitor to fear if it makes a success out of delivery by drone or driverless vans."
All in all, whatever shape or form foodtech innovation takes, it will be driven by consumer demand for cheaper prices, fast delivery and high quality food. As with most aspects of our modern lives, the true solution to this issue is likely to be found in data. If grocers and restaurateurs can get to grips with consumer purchasing and eating habits, then they will be better equipped to dominate the market. Crucially, this will also help all of us to cut down on waste. When innovation meets profit, consumer satisfaction and increased sustainability, everybody wins.
Enter Ocado, the online grocery delivery business with international contracts, most recently with Kroger, the American grocer. Ocado was founded in 2000 by three former Goldman Sachs investment bankers, listing in 2010. Initially delivering solely goods ordered from Waitrose, it now also delivers for Wm Morrison, but more importantly, its main selling point is its technology — its highly automated customer fulfilment centres, which it builds and operates for third parties. The group is also developing and producing automated technologies capable of picking the groceries available to buy on its website.