Ocado has ploughed £7 million into London-based robotics start-up Karakuri, marking its first ever investment in a tech startup.
The online grocery specialist purchased a minority 18 per cent stake in Karakuri, which has created a range of “chef” automated robots able to create customised meals to order.
By integrating Karikuri’s technology into its supply chain, Ocado’s warehouse technology customers will reportedly be able to “make a decision on whether they want to add a ready-made food offering” in the near future.
The bid to boost its ready-made food offerings comes as Ocado seeks to revamp its reputation as a leader in robotics and automation, after its high-tech automated warehouse was destroyed by a fire, reportedly originating from one of its robots’ batteries.
Karikuri’s first robot, dubbed Marley, is able to produce customised ice-cream orders and cocktails, while its upcoming DK-One machine will reportedly be able to produce a custom meal every 10 seconds.
Ocado will begin integrating Karakuri’s robots into its supply chain, and in its staff canteen, later this year.
“Our investment in Karakuri, potentially a game-changer in the preparation of food-to-go, gives us the opportunity to bring the best innovation to the benefit of our own customers as well as our partners,” Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner said.
Karakuri chief executive and co-founder Barney Wragg added: “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.
“Our systems prepare personalised meals onsite in real time to the exact requirements of each customer. At the same time, our technology aims to minimise food waste, packaging and distribution costs and all of the associated environmental impact.”