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SXSW 2016: What’s New in Food-Focused Tech

April 04, 2016

We loved that the food world had a major footprint at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference. With an entire conference track filled with food-focused sessions, the Future of Food Pavilion at the SXSW trade show and several food-focused start-ups vying for top honors in the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards, you couldn’t miss it.

When it comes to recipe content, two new platforms are taking video to new levels, and present some exciting opportunities for potential advertising and branded content down the road.

Get our take on five new food platforms introduced at SXSW:

 

Nom

A new live video platform that’s all about food, Nom made a big splash at SXSW, thanks in large part to its tech world pedigree. Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube, started the company with high school pal Vijay Karunamurthy, also a YouTube veteran. Nom lets users create their own live cooking shows while viewers comment in real time. Launched just a few days before SXSW, Nom has a handful of featured channels, and the key to its success will be in growing its user base.

Monetization isn’t top of mind for Nom right now, and Chen said any future advertising will need to be related to the content of videos. He also stressed that while Nom is in the early stages of building its user base, viewers coming to the platform have a high level of interest in the content.

The takeaway: Nom has exciting potential, but as with all new platform introductions, the proof will be in the pudding (only this time, the pudding will be cooked live). We tried out the app and found it easy to create a profile and start “nomcasting” our own live video, but it was tricky to find other channels to follow beyond Nom’s featured choices. Hopefully that will be addressed with new updates and as the community grows.

Overall, Nom could be great platform for food bloggers and brands to incorporate into their social media strategies and connect with fans via live video chats. On the other hand, Facebook’s new live video feature could prove more useful to some without requiring the addition of a new platform.

 

Drop

The makers of Drop aim to take the guesswork out of cooking with a digital scale that syncs with its recipe app, helping users measure exact amounts as they prepare a dish. Only have 5 ounces of flour and the recipe calls for 7? No problem. The Drop app will scale the rest of the ingredients down to fit your needs. Volume measurements are included in recipes for those users who don’t own a Drop scale, and directions are provided in a simple, step-by-step, interactive format.

The takeaway: For home cooks who embrace the practice of measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume, Drop could be a very useful service. The company was founded in Dublin (now also headquartered in San Francisco) and seems well suited for this European style of cooking.

Like it or not, however, volume measurements are used by the vast majority of U.S. home cooks. Could a shift toward measuring by weight lead to better, more consistent results in home cooking? Most definitely. But it’s an awfully big hurdle.

 

Kitchenbowl

Kitchenbowl is a growing database of eye-catching, user-generated recipes broken down into step-by-step instructions with photos and gifs. Recipes lean toward fresh and healthy and the overall look is bright and clean. Think mini Tasty-style videos within a recipe breaking down steps that might not be clear through written directions alone.

Kitchenbowl just launched its new companion app Fork It! at SXSW this year. It’s designed to help users meet their cooking goals, with options such as “become healthier,” “lose weight,” “save money” and “improve my cooking skills.” The app takes a goal-oriented approach, tracking healthy habits (similar to that of fitness apps), letting users “fork” the recipes they’ve made, share photos and track their progress through challenges, badges and points.

The takeaway: Kitchenbowl’s recipe visuals draw us in and we’re impressed with the content overall (contributors seem to be a mix of food bloggers and Instagrammers). We’re interested to see if and how the site integrates advertising and branded content as it grows.

 

Nima

A finalist at the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards, Nima is a portable food sensor that tests food for gluten in about 2 minutes. Users place a small sample of liquid or solid food in a capsule, insert the capsule into the device and wait for the results. A sad face indicates gluten has been detected, while a happy face assures that there is less than 20 parts per million gluten. The device links with a smart phone app to share test results with other users in a database. Nima hopes to become a gluten-free Yelp of sorts with users sharing information about which foods are safe and which to avoid.

The takeaway: Gluten free remains a powerful force in the food world, but this kind of testing doesn’t come cheap. The Nima device can be preordered now for $199, and will hit the market this summer for $249. One-time use capsules come in packs of 12 for a subscription price of $48/pack. Testing capabilities for other food sensitivities such as peanuts is planned for 2017.

 

ShareTheMeal

Winner of the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards “New Economy” category, ShareTheMeal is an app that makes it easy to “share” a meal with someone in need with the click of a button. An initiative of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), ShareTheMeal focuses on one particular location at a time.

Currently, donations are going to pregnant and nursing mothers and their children still living in Homs, Syria, who have been displaced by violence and have limited income. Users can link a credit card or PayPal account and tap the “Share the Meal” app to donate as little as $0.50 (the average cost for the WFP to feed one child for one day). The app’s creators hope users will use it regularly as they enjoy a meal of their own and spread the word through social media.

The takeaway: We love the simplicity of the app, and the connection to a specific crisis and the individuals affected makes us want to keep checking in and sharing meals.


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