Whole Foods and Amazon See Your Oven as the Next Food Frontier

Randy Hofbauer
Digital and Technology Editor
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Whole Foods and Amazon See Your Oven as the Next Food Frontier
Whole Foods Market has joined forces with smart-oven manufacturer June to integrate several of the grocer's private label products and other items with smart-oven user interfaces

Shoppable recipes.Amazon's Dash buttons.The Samsung Family Hub smart fridge. In recent years, a number of companies have partnered with both grocers and CPGs to continue making it easier for consumers to build their shopping lists and purchase products from the comfort of their own homes – even without the traditional grocery ecommerce website or mobile app.

And the Internet of Things (IoT) goes marching on in grocery technology – toward cooking. This week, Whole Foods Market began its partnership with smart-oven manufacturer June to integrate a number of its private label products and other items with smart-oven user interfaces (UI), all with the idea of helping Whole Foods shoppers more easily prepare meals.

Following its recent launch of the second-generation "do-it-all" oven, San Francisco-based June deployed a software update that integrates more than 30 products with the ovens' UI and its chef-created custom-cook programs for specific foods and recipes. All June ovens now feature a Whole Foods Market icon on the interface that, with one tap, helps users prepare the products – made up of 365 Everyday Value products and other items sold in Whole Foods stores – from fresh salmon with a lemon thyme rub and pork andouille sausage to a frozen vegetable medley.

If you think prep capabilities are limited to those of a conventional oven – like baking – think again. According to June, each of its ovens functions as seven appliances in one: a convection oven, air fryer, dehydrator, slow cooker, broiler, toaster and warming drawer. Users control the oven, observe cooking and are notified when food is fully prepared via the June mobile app – or  simply by asking Alexa through a device enabled with the Amazon voice-assistant technology (further reducing the number of questions that Alexa can't answer).

"It's our mission to bring the highest-quality experience, convenience and innovation to our customers," said Norma Quon, a senior director of global marketing for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, which is now No. 8 (with parent company Amazon) on Progressive Grocer's 2018 list of the top grocers in the United States. "As adoption of smart cooking continues to grow exponentially, this partnership allows us to provide a unique offering that makes it even easier for shoppers to enjoy their favorite Whole Foods Market products."

There was a time years ago when many of us recall cracking a recipe book to assist in dinner prep efforts, which is how I remember learning in Home Economics – or when I moved into my first apartment. Since then, we've moved from printing recipes from websites to reading them straight off our tablets and phones – and now even listening to them via voice-assistant devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home. Is the smart oven the next link between our grocer and what we're having for dinner?

Granted, an oven is a much bigger-ticket item than an iPad or an Echo Dot (currently, June sells in select Whole Foods stores in California for $799). However, June is reporting favorable sales numbers for its latest iteration: Released in August, the second-generation oven has increased household reach "exponentially" and sold out its first two batches within a month. Given enough time, as old appliances get replaced with new and the Internet of Things continues to permeate our households, our ovens could very well be doing all of the dinnertime work for us before we know it – with the help of our favorite grocers.

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