Ocado leads £7m investment in food robotics firm
Written by Hannah McGrath
Ocado has led a £7 million investment round in UK-based robotics start up Karakuri, which specialises in the automated assembly of ready-to-eat meals.
The online grocery delivery giant made an equity investment of £4.75 million for 18 per cent of the company and will take a seat on the board. Other backers included Hoxton Ventures, Firstminute Capital and Taylor Brothers.
Ocado, which suffered a devastating fire at one of its automated warehouse facilities in February, said it would use Karakuri’s technology to assemble ready-to-eat meals in the fast, casual, healthy food sector.
The firm’s machine can be used in the assembly of all boxed meals, using a configurable, modular design which can be installed in-store or in “dark kitchens” - commercial kitchens dedicated to serving online takeaway orders- and can aggregate up to 48 food items to create a wide range of food-to-go options.
Ocado said its investment in Karakuri would give the business the opportunity to expand its range of grocery propositions, especially through fast delivery service Ocado Zoom.
The company said the deal would also provide Ocado 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 Karakuri’s automated machines in the second half of 2019.
Tim Steiner, chief executive of Ocado, said: “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: “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.”
He added: “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.”