Serving a bowl of cereal is hardly the most labor-intensive task, but that has not stopped Kellogg’s from automating the process. This as the packaged food giant debuts the Kellogg’s Bowl Bot, a robot that dispenses custom and pre-programmed cereal mixes into a bowl with customers’ choice of milk.
According to a report in The Spoon, the automated dispensary system will be piloted on college students at two universities. It is being launched with Chowbotics, the food robotics company (acquired by DoorDash earlier this year) that has its own produce-related variation via its signature Sally the Salad Robot.
On an earnings call earlier in May, Kellogg’s Chairman and CEO Steven Cahillane discussed “continued softness in away-from-home channels.” However, he said, “Important to know is that we have not been sitting still waiting for consumer mobility to resume and away-from-home outlets to reopen. We have been actively securing future business.”
Now, with the debut of these two robots at Florida State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kellogg’s may be gearing up for the return of morning meals on the go. The company’s Away from Home division includes restaurants, schools and colleges, hotels and other establishments. Now, as newly vaccinated consumers return to the office and to the classroom, it appears that Kellogg’s is getting ready to meet their away-from-home morning meal needs.
Throughout the pandemic, industry experts have been noting how lockdowns have hit foodservice establishments’ breakfast sales despite restaurants’ best efforts, with stuck-at-home consumers no longer picking up breakfast on their way to their destinations. One recent report found that 47 percent of adults have been eating breakfast at home every day since the start of the pandemic, compared to 37 percent before March 2020. Now, it seems Kellogg’s is looking to capitalize on consumers’ post-vaccination mobility surge to bring back away-from-home breakfast.
The robot also appeals to consumers’ lingering health concerns about contact-free technology. For university students, it serves as an alternative to communal cereal dispensers, touched by dozens or hundreds of hands each morning. As UW-Madison’s announcement of the Bowl Bot says, the bot “keeps your ingredients protected and sealed, so they’re safe from touch.” Additionally, students can order through the Chowbotics mobile app, putting together and ordering their bowl without touching the machine.
PYMNTS’ research from this month’s edition of Delivering on Restaurant Rewards, created in collaboration with Paytronix, found that 39 percent of consumers’ primary pandemic worries pertain to their health, and that 44 percent of these consumers are encouraged to spend more on food orders when they have the ability to pay online.
On Chowbotics’ side, this partnership plays into the company’s broader push to get its robots into colleges and universities. The company notes that its machines are currently in over 300 on-campus facilities, that its machines integrate easily with student meal payment plans, and that the system is more hygienic than the typical dining hall experience.
The move to debut these robots in late spring, close to most universities’ graduation, might indicate that Kellogg’s and Chowbotics are using these bots as a short-term pilot test, looking to bring the robots to more universities in the fall.