Customization in the Kitchen

by Joseph Flaherty on November 24, 2010

There are a number of start ups that deliver customized food to picky gourmets. MixMyGranola, Chocri, and even M&M’s deliver individually tailored treats to customers willing to pay the price. All of these services are technically well executed, but suffer from the fact that they are trying to replace impulse buys with items that take days or weeks to arrive after an order is placed.

Laser etched bacon is likewise an impractical solution to kitchen customization. While it may make breakfast an aesthetic experience, hooking up a 40W Versalaser for immediate gratification is going to be impractical for most cooks who aren’t named Homaru Cantu.

There are some products in the middle of this continuum. Provocraft makes a product called the Cricut Cake, and offshoot of their wildly popular CNC paper cutting machine the Cricut. This device allows you to make amazing cakes by electronically cutting out fondant shapes to garnish your baking. The Cricut is a $300MM a year product so this is not just a niche product.

The Cricut Cake is a slick looking piece of hardware, but there are a number of ideas that lead users have developed that could be significantly improved by the right product person. Behold the “Kopykake Projector“.

This contraption projects an image onto a cake or baked good and lets the creator trace the image on in frosting. It is a simple technology with a kludged implementation begging to be redesigned. While this device is a bit large for most kitchens it could be miniaturized and paired with a data asset to help unleash the creativity of many graphically challenged bakers.

Beyond cake decorating there are many product categories that would allow amateur chefs to be more creative and produce better quality dishes. It is an interesting area to look at since there are so many people who cook for a hobby and a multi-billion dollar industry already exists to serve their needs (vs. custom sneakers which is really a solution in search of a problem). One need only look at Jim’s Pancakes, the “Play with Your Food” series, or the amazing home made creations at Sweetopia to see what is possible when aesthetics, calories, and customization collide.

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