Amsterdam Talks Tech and Food

On Thursday November 19th, the sixth edition of Amsterdam Talks Tech took place in the venue of Spaces Herengracht, Amsterdam. During the food-themed evening, four pioneers in the Dutch food industry gave a closer look into their businesses, and talked about what drives them.

Meet the panel

Local entrepreneur Marleen Jansen (Marleenkookt) delivers home-cooked food on your doorstep; Jordy van Meer (Koken met Aanbiedingen) created an app that combines supermarket offers with great recipes; Food Inspiration‘s trendwatcher Frank Lindner; and Philip Padberg (Deliveroo) who makes it possible to deliver food from your favorite restaurants to your home. The evening was hosted by Remy Gieling, editor in chief at Sprout Magazine.

What is the connection between tech and food according to our panel members? Marleen explains: “Our service is not technology-driven, but we do use it. On their smartphones deliverers see route info and small details about customers, for instance a doorbell that doesn’t ring, or an old lady who isn’t able to come to the door downstairs. I believe first and foremost you should focus on your customers needs and not integrate tech for the sake of tech.” Jordy mentions Koken met aanbiedingen uses branded content in their app. An example: a pasta recipe with a total of seven ingredients of which four are offers, with the pasta being from Grand’Italia. The pasta would be the branded content, in this case.

Demands of the user

But what if this branded content is more expensive than similar products of other brands? Jordy explains: “We are very transparent; in the recipe we mention what is branded content. This is not the biggest challenge Jordy and his team face, though. All recipes have to be correct by the letter.”

“We don’t hear from happy customers, but when something is wrong, we easily receive 15 e-mails within 10 minutes.” Marleen adds. “In the beginning I used to cook with a lot of cilantro. But I learned the hard way that they are cilantro lovers, and haters.” Transparency and openness continue to be important and the power of the consumer keeps getting bigger. A good example of the consumer’s demand for transparency is the video of the band Sons Of Maxwell. They made a song about United Airlines when their guitar broke during a flight. After the release of the video, the airline panicked.

Philip loves this trend: “Big companies are afraid of consumers. But this development actually is a good thing. It gets companies to be very honest.”

Trends in food

This transparency translates itself into products. According to Frank, two relevant trends are going on in food right now. “The first is reinventing tradition, such as coffee makers roasting their own beans, or local beer breweries brewing their own beers. The second involves awareness of what food does to our body, for example: which foods provide you with energy?”

This is happening now and not 20 years earlier, because of the current problems we have in food. One of them is ‘globesity’, which means people all over the world have gotten fatter. Frank: “After World War II, we simply needed food. As long as it was there, it was okay.” Nowadays there is a growing group of people for whom mass food production by profit-based big companies doesn’t work anymore. Deliveroo for example, handpicks qualitatively good restaurants.

Are there restaurants they won’t accept? Philip: “Yes. We have minimum quality standards and we have a lot of debate about which restaurants to pick. We even coach some restaurants to review their daily processes in order to get them accepted.” Marleen: “Most of our customers are younger couples who don’t have the time and the energy to cook, but still want to have good food on their plate. People usually are surprised after their first order, because they didn’t expect the meal to be so fresh.”

Sustainability

Is there going to be enough of this fresh food? Frank: “We are going to have to produce less meat. We are educated to eat meat every day, while this is not necessary. It is not beneficial for our health: we are just used to doing it. We are going to have to change that. By using technology, we can create more awareness amongst cooks about food waste.” Marleen is taking this into account as well. She doesn’t cook with a lot of meat. Also, the meals are delivered with electric bicycles throughout Amsterdam. What stands out are the porcelain bowls in which the food is delivered. When you order regularly, the delivery guy or girl will pick up the bowl you used last time. When you are not planning on ordering anytime soon, you can ask them to pick up your empty bowl.

Personalized experience and a human touch

What does our trend watcher think that is going to happen in the future? Frank: “Enough! In upcoming years, health will become more and more important in food and tech. What is the right thing to eat for you, will be defined through a personalized experience: there will be apps that analyze vitamin levels through your saliva and as a result, advises you what products you should buy to supplement them.” There already are shakes available with the exact dose of all the minerals and vitamins you need. Frank isn’t enthusiastic: “I think 50% of the people will consider this a benefit, and the other half will be very conscious about what they eat. Personally I think it’s rubbish.”

Marleen will continue to serve the latter 50% with the human touch as the focal point. Rumor has it that the person who brings the food shakes your hand at the door. She laughs: “Yes, we have very nice delivery boys and girls.” Frank adds to that: “Soon enough, we will be talking to each other while dining in restaurants again. This is already happening in France, where certain restaurants don’t allow phones anymore. They say: with your pictures on Instagram, you ruin the surprise for future customers.”

Food innovation in Amsterdam

Will we be seeing this in Amsterdam soon too? Maybe. Amsterdam is known to pick up innovative concepts and platforms quickly. This also holds for innovations in food. The gourmet burger restaurants have been there for decades; in other cities they are just opening up. Frank: “If you want to have a startup in food, look at what is happening in food capitals like London and Barcelona, and bring it to Amsterdam.” Deliveroo is the living proof of that. Philip: “We’re growing 25% week on week, that’s pretty massive.”

© Photo credits: Spaces

 

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