Global Q&A Series: Pantri Ties into the Smart Home
We’ve all been there. It’s a Saturday morning and it’s time to head out to the grocery store. You had all week to pull together your shopping list, yet here you are in the minutes prior to leaving the house and you’re scrambling around the refrigerator checking best-by dates, counting how many eggs are left in the carton, and taking a whiff of the milk to see if it still smells digestible. All seems fine, your list is essentially complete, and then Monday morning rolls around and you realize you somehow didn’t remember to check the cheese/deli meat drawer and now, instead of a nice cold cut sandwich, you’re schlepping a frozen “meal” to the office (because we all know those things barely fill up a quarter of your tummy).
For how smart our appliances are these days, you’d expect that they ought to be able to make our shopping lists for us so we can avoid that sort of situation, right? Well, that’s where pantri—a U.K.-based service—has stepped in. The pantri platform aims to be the bridge between today’s smart appliances and the grocery supply chain, giving customers a simple, smart way to have their groceries automatically replenished, hassle-free.
Dealerscope recently caught up with Thomas Cooper, the Managing Director of pantri, to talk about the service, how it’s disrupting the grocery retail industry, and more.
Dealerscope: What attracted you to the consumer tech world?
Cooper: As a kid, I stacked shelves at a retailer and saw how the store systems linked a warehouse, shop floor, and checkouts to manage stock and automatically reorder based on minimum quantity rules.
It was a builder's shop so there were seasonal algorithms that made sure we didn't have pallets of de-icing salt in the summer. I thought this whole thing would be cool in the kitchen, but realized that it wasn't going to work scanning things in and out as you did your weekly shop and then consumed the various items over the course of the week.
Then in 2015, I saw the emergence of the Smart Kitchen, having read a supplement in Wired Magazine. I paired this with the blossoming UK online grocery delivery market and realized that my idea could now work.
A quick trip to IFA 2015 later, and I realized that if I wanted to make the idea a reality, I needed to roll my sleeves up and so I founded Pantri, which links the ever growing list of smart appliances to grocery retailers across the planet.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Dealing with big laggards of institutions. I'm in the fast quick decision startup world where we can get an idea out of the door in a week. Appliance manufacturers understand that this world is coming and they're realizing that they need to collaborate or die. Grocery retailers less so. Aside from the resource issues that surround any startup (i.e. no time and no money), this is the hardest part of getting things off the ground. But, we're a startup and we're programmed to disrupt—so we just work around these challenges by building our own solutions to circumnavigate larger organizations that don't want to participate.
What do you think is the most important thing that you are working on right now, and why?
Providing a platform that’s connecting all of the different appliances to all of the different retailers. If you have a smaller scale product – say a startup smart coffee machine manufacturer, they're spending all of their time trying to build out their hardware and tech. For them to then need to go and figure out how to talk to all of the grocery retailers is a task 100x bigger. This is true to an extent with larger companies too. That’s where we're helping out make the entire auto replenishment category really work.
For the consumer, we're really excited about the idea that in 10 years time, we could have facilitated the consumer undertaking at least half of their weekly shop. Lets say it takes an average of 1.5 hours to do the weekly grocery run. For say every 50 doctors that use our service, we create a full working week of free time. So for every 50 doctors that use Pantri, we're basically creating another doctor for free!
How is your industry being disrupted right now, and what are you doing to stay ahead of that disruption?
We're causing it! There’s been a lot of tech coming into the smart kitchen space over the past few years, much of it within closed systems. In short its been tech looking for a need.
Do you really need to set the temperature of your oven from your smartphone? Probably not, particularly when you're hands are covered in food prep.
With the likes of what Pantri are doing, we're coming from an angle of trying to fulfill a consumer need. You'll probably struggle to find anyone who enjoys shopping for milk, fish fingers, or loo roll every week.
If we can use this new appliance tech to take over that chore, we'll free up valuable time for the consumer and enable them to purchase the items they do enjoy from outlets—such as bread from your local artisanal baker.
Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5-10 years?
I think that kitchen appliances are about to enter a period similar to mobile phones have over the previous decade.
I envisage it being slower to get going as the replacement cycles get shorter, but as consumers see a real advantage from having a connected kitchen, they will swap out their existing appliances reasonably quickly. It’s not to dissimilar to TV's. Did you really need to swap out your flat screen to a 1080p TV, then to a 4K TV, and afterwards a curved OLED TV? No, of course not. But, a certain band of consumers want the latest and greatest tech. They just don't consider their washing machine to be that tech just yet.
For kitchen appliance dealers, I think this coming decade is going to be a golden era where you finally get to participate in the smart home.
What advice do you have for retailers to help them better position your products to consumers?
In the kitchen space, be ready and open for the tech that has revolutionized other industries to come across into selling kitchen products. It'll likely occur first with housewares appliances that have shorter replacement cycles and lower purchase costs.
But pretty quickly as the smart kitchen takes hold I believe that you're going to see a wave of interest and expectation coming to bigger ticket items such as ovens and dishwashers—with certain demographics of consumers not wanting to be buying into old "dumb" appliance technologies.