Ocado takes stake in London robotics start up Karakuri
UK online retailer Ocado has acquired a minority stake in Karakuri, a robotics start-up with the potential to revolutionise the preparation of ready-to-eat meals.
Karakuri’s unique IP centres around a new machine which automates the assembly of ready-to-eat meals in the fast, casual, healthy food sector.
The machine can be used in the assembly of all boxed meals, using a configurable, modular design which can easily be installed in-store or in “dark kitchens”, and can aggregate up to 48 food items to create a wide range of food-to-go options.
Ocado Group’s ventures arm led the £7m seed round with an equity investment of £4.75m for 18% of the company and will take a seat on the board.
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.
The investment in Karakuri gives Ocado the opportunity to expand its value proposition in grocery, especially through Ocado Zoom, our new immediacy offer, and also provides our Ocado Solutions partners with innovative answers to the challenges of building a strong and profitable food delivery business.
Ocado expects 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”, said Tim Steiner, Chief Executive of Ocado.
“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”.
Barney Wragg, Chief Executive of Karakuri, said: “At Karakuri, we are dedicated to providing smart new ways to create and prepare fresh personalised 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 personalisation is putting huge pressure on restaurants, cafes and other food retailers. 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 localised micro-manufacturing within an existing restaurant, retail or commercial kitchen.
“Our systems prepare personalised meals onsite in real-time and to the exact requirement of each customer. While at the same time our technology aims to minimise food waste, packaging and distribution costs and all of the associated environmental impact.”