Ocado Group PLC, an English online supermarket company, announced recently that it acquired a minority stake in robotics startup Karakuri that has the potential to revolutionize the preparation of ready-to-eat meals.
Karakuri was founded by CTO Simon Watt and CEO Barney Wragg. The two of them are longtime friends and worked as colleagues at ARM in the 1990’s. Last year, Founders Factory invested in Karakuri and Brent Hoberman joined the board as Chairman.
Ocado Group’s ventures arm led the £7 million seed round with an equity investment of £4.75 million for 18% of the company and will take a board seat. And if Ocado meets certain pre-agreed targets in the take-up of this technology, it would then be given the right to purchase additional shares in the company. Hoxton Ventures, Firstminute Capital, and Taylor Brothers also joined this round.
Essentially, Karakuri unique intellectual property centers around a new machine that automates the assembly of ready-to-eat meals in the fast-casual and healthy food sector. The machine can be used in the assembly of all boxed meals using a configurable and modular design — which can easily be installed in-store or in “dark kitchens.” And it can aggregate up to 48 food items for creating a wide range of food-to-go options.
“At Karakuri, we are dedicated to providing smart new ways to create and prepare fresh personalized meals. Consumer eating habits in and out of the home are changing rapidly as demand increases for healthier options that match specific dietary requirements. This growth in menu personalization is putting huge pressure on restaurants, cafes and other food retailers,” said Karakuri CEO Barney Wragg in a statement “These providers have historically relied on identically mass-produced meals to maintain their profit margins. By using robotics and machine learning, Karakuri’s systems provide localized micro-manufacturing within an existing restaurant, retail or commercial kitchen. Our systems prepare personalized meals onsite in real-time and to the exact requirement of each customer. While at the same time our technology aims to minimize food waste, packaging and distribution costs and all of the associated environmental impact.”
The investment in Karakuri gives Ocado the opportunity to expand its value proposition in grocery especially through Ocado Zoom and also provides Ocado Solutions partners with innovative answers to the challenges of building a profitable food delivery business. And Ocado is expecting to take delivery of the first of these automated machines in the second half of 2019.
“Ocado is constantly striving to identify the best and most innovative solutions to provide consumers with the greatest possible value, choice and convenience. Our investment in Karakuri, potentially a game-changer in the preparation of food-to-go, gives us the opportunity to bring the best of innovation to the benefit of our own customers as well as those of our partners,” added Ocado CEO Tim Steiner.