Can she crack the nut of personalization in the food industry? An interview with Racheli Vizman, Co-Founder and CEO of SavorEat

  • Can she crack the nut of personalization in the food industry? An interview with Racheli Vizman, Co-Founder and CEO of SavorEat (savoreat_-49.jpg)

Personalization is one of the most intensely discussed topics in the food industry.

Companies like amazon, Netflix and Spotify have trained us consumers to expect, desire, as well as pay for the convenience to know our preferences. With a huge potential UBS estimates the market to reach 64bn USD by 2040) more and more companies investigate options to seize their part of the personalized food market cake. However, as discussed in our Whitepaper, no company has been able to deliver yet or appears close to solving the challenge due to its enormous complexity.

Racheli Vizman, Co-Founder and CEO of SavorEat has set out to find a solution. She builds a holistic food-tech platform that one day shall be able to offer on demand personalized food at home. I had the pleasure to talk to Racheli about her own story, the current version of her Robot Chef, expansion plans and her vision for a personalized future of food.

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    Photo: SavorEat

Hi Racheli, thank you for taking the time for the interview today. The readers and I are excited to learn about you and SavorEat. It would be great if you could start with a short intro about SavorEat and yourself.

Sure. Thanks for the opportunity for today’s interview. Happy to share my mission with you. I’m the co-founder and CEO of SavorEat and I am an entrepreneur. In the last 17 years, I've mainly been active in the startup scene, and mainly in Israel and the US. Before SavorEat, I was involved with various healthcare startups and took them from basic ideas up until commercialization. More than eight years ago, I was dealing with a very severe medical episode that caused me to adopt a very restrictive diet. I lost my energy, I lost my passion for life, and I got into a depression. My background is as a chemist and a biotechnology engineer, so I know something about formulas, chemicals, and product ingredients, and it was very difficult for me to find food that I could consume. At this particular moment, I started dreaming about a machine on which I can push a few buttons and it will make the food that I need according to my specific preferences and needs, without compromising on taste or healthiness.

How did this lead to SavorEat and what do you do?

I started scouting globally for potential partners that had the technical understanding and the insights into the food industry, which I lacked. I found them in Israel at the Agriculture University. We combined my technological expertise from the healthcare industry with their food-tech knowledge and founded SavorEat in 2018. SavorEat is a holistic food-tech platform solution that incorporates personalized consumer data, manufacturing the product on the spot, and preparing it ready to eat within minutes. We currently realize it in the form of a plant-based burger patty produced by our proprietary Robot Chef. So, it is not just about creating healthier, delicious, sustainable food, it is also about understanding the end consumer and catering to their personal preferences.

Currently, personalization is an intensely discussed topic in the food industry. What is the current degree of personalization you offer and what is your vision?

Today, the consumer can alter protein and fat content, cooking preferences and size of the product. In addition, the protein type from (plant-based) beef, Breakfast Patty (meatless sausage), and turkey can be chosen. Soon, we will add seafood and chicken. In parallel, we continue to work toward additional preferences such as vitamins, probiotics and fibers. Eventually, we will offer a personalized product based on the consumer data and preferences - for home use.

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    Photo: SavorEat

That sounds like a bold vision, but a very complex one as well. Combining consumer’s health data and consumption preferences into a single product requires a lot of information to draw from and options to build into the product. How do you plan to tackle the complexity?

You are absolutely right and we are going to approach it step by step with three major factors. First, we limit the complexity. At the start we will build clusters of people with a certain need: think about athletes or people with the desire to boost their immune system. To create the relevant clusters, we develop and feed an AI with currently available data. This approach allows us to limit the production complexity within the Robot Chef and manage product costs. Next, over time, we will be able to incorporate more and more personal information from the consumers like their microbiome, blood, or genome sequencing data and advance the boundaries of the production process to offer a wider selection of options. And the final element will be collaboration. The beauty about SavorEat is that we create a platform that enables connections to all stakeholders in the ecosystem, be it the end users, manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, food service companies or data providers. We envision that food will become as convenient as the consumer knows it from Netflix today. A fully customized food product on demand.

Seems like an ambitious roadmap, and I am very eager to see how it evolves. Do you have a vision of a timeline for integrating all the technology and making it price competitive?

Even today the prices we charge are quite similar to our competitors. There is a mark-up, but we are providing not just a product, but a premium yet accessible plant-based dining experience. When we hit full commercialization, in 2023, we can further lower the price point. In addition to the price and taste competitive patty, we offer process savings in terms of labor cost, operational capabilities, managing the supply chain, and reducing waste dramatically. All those things, we believe, will differentiate us from the offering of other players. The technological integration is hard to predict in terms of a precise timeline. Another fascinating aspect we have not touched upon is the data that we generate. People consume food all day, every day. In addition to the private data, which of course is confidential, it is going to teach us a lot about habits, preferences, and behavior of consumers. I believe this may change the way we develop food products entirely.

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    Photo: SavorEat

Currently, you promote your product via the Robot Chef that customizes and prepares three burgers to be consumed within minutes. You have launched in a burger chain in Israel and target the US, according to the news. What’s your go-to-market approach?

First, as you mentioned, we have started in the food service industry. Institutional kitchens, restaurants, places where we meet the final consumer and can deliver a unique and personalized experience. We just recently completed a commercial reveal with one of the largest burger chains in the Middle East and plan to launch with Sodexo, one of the largest food service providers, in the US at the end of this year. With the learnings that we generate, we aim to expand to other geographies. Eventually, we envision consumers having their very own Smart Robot Chef at home.

What’s the customer feedback and are there repeat buyers?

For the pilot that we tested in Israel, the results were exceptional, and far exceeded our expectations. The ability to personalize their meal was especially valued by consumers. It was less of a surprise for us, but I think for the operator, it was quite astonishing. With the feedback that we received also from some repeat customers, we have started working on additional versions.

Congratulations on the positive feedback. Sounds like you are on the right track. Do you understand yourself as a food or a tech company?

I would say it’s both. We are at an intersection between food and technology. Neither just the one nor the other, we are both.

Is that also reflected in the allocation of your resources?

We are a multidisciplinary team. We have food engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, software engineers, marketing, sales, business, the full range of competences. We develop the food product formulation ourselves and write the algorithm that supports, manages, and controls the entire process. Perhaps we have a stronger focus on technology, but we are both. In terms of financial resources, we had a strong technology focus in the beginning to develop the algorithm and the Robot Chef to optimize the food service benefits and the end consumer experience. We still invest heavily into technology, but also considerable amounts of resources into our varieties of delicious food. Because in the end - we never compromise on taste.

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    Photo: SavorEat

Are you willing to shed some light on your ingredients?

We use a variety of different proteins, fats, and flavors. All plant-based, non-GMO, gluten-free and no preservatives, as we make the products on the spot. We want to keep it simple and healthy. And since we use well-known ingredients, we avoid any novel food regulation and have all required certificates to sell on the respective markets.

What do you need in order to grow further and when do you plan to come to Europe?

We need resources, both financial and talent, to continue our company development and strategic partners.
Timewise, we initially planned to focus on the U.S., but now we consider expanding beyond it as well, so Europe for sure and perhaps also Latin America. In 2023 we will mainly focus on the US, but in 2024 we might look for further expansion. Also depending on our learnings and the availability of strategic partners.

Racheli, wow, we covered a lot of ground today and I like to thank you for your time and insights.

Thank you, Frank, for the interview.

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