When Franke announced their Think Next event (the first of what will be an annual summit) it was to anticipation, but mostly to curiosity. Questions about what exactly we could possibly ‘think next’ to in the kitchen did not go away until arrival at their Aarburg HQ. Representing kb-eye, I as well as several other journalists representing other media companies got the invite to last thursday’s inaugural event.
Like clockwork, the media event was the first to start, with an introduction by Franke CEO Alexander Zschokke, who briefed the attendees on the reason for Think Next and what to expect for the rest of the day. This was followed quickly by a tour of their brand new, made-for-purpose showroom designed by architect Carlo Colombo. The showroom itself bore no semblance to conventional showrooms in the sense that it was simplistic. In this case, even technology was simple – water purification faucets, digitally operated cookers and hoods, all blended seamlessly into a well-presented kitchen area. “The whole process of building this took 3 months, and it was ready last week,” says architect Colombo. He also added that the Milano showroom, which is due to open in the first week of October will have a restaurant for clients and other guests who will be catered to by celebrity chef Bruno Barbieri. When he was asked about the possibility of opening a showroom in London, he said: “I will cross my finger.” Right above the showroom, Franke’s impressive history was on display in a museum that occupied the top floor of the building.
The showroom tour ended to the start of the main event at their filled-to-capacity auditorium. Again, the CEO opened and addressed the audience, and it was at this point the idea of Think Next started getting clearer. By the time Alexander Zschokke finished his opening speech, and 3 of the 6 key note speakers finished theirs, Franke’s message to the world became very apparent, and it was simple – technology, and how design, architecture and cooking will shape our future.
The overwhelming message of the day was technology, and its future relationship with food, and cooking.
In some extreme cases, we heard about the future of robotics and why we should be prepared for a time when our ovens would cook the perfect pizza through an app, and robot arms do the washing-up after. Marius Robles, CEO & Co-Founder of Reimagine Food, in his presentation passionately re-emphasized the technologies that are transforming and impacting our food system. This was science fiction stuff, but somehow there’s every reason to believe this will be the case very soon.
Other keynote speakers at the event included Claus Meyer, Co-Founder of Noma restaurant, Phillipe Starck, French creator, designer and architect, Stephan Sigrist, Founder and head of the W.I.R.E think tank, and many more.
Between sessions, there were labs and workshops with various experts presenting different aspects of food and tech synergies. One that was of most interest was the consumer insights lab. This was presented by Dr Mirjam Hauser, Senior Research Manager at GIM Suisse (a company for innovative market research). Her insight into consumer behaviourism and the general acceptance of technology was quite interesting. She touched on the German’s mixed relationship with technology in their kitchens. I wondered if the same was the case in the UK, although I am hopeful that research will soon cover this, if it hasn’t done so already.
Another session of interest was ‘water’ and the rise in water purification systems. Franke had plenty of water purification faucets on display, and it would seem there is a big push for these systems. When I asked the CEO about the future of such systems, he had this to say: “Water is not the same in every country. In some regions, purification is only about taking the chlorine out, and in the other extremes you have to filter in totally different ways. This makes it more complicated. In each region, we have to find the right filter to do the right job. The company that will dominate in future will have to be a company that best understands the filtration product and respects the needs of each region.”
Following the series of interviews, Franke laid out an evening of entertainment and networking as part of its food festival, which rounded up the day. There was plenty to eat and drink, but for me, the message of the day still resonated, and I suspect that our relationship with food and the way we cook it will start to change soon.
In all, Think Next by Franke was an extremely well-organised event which brought together experts from around the world to share valuable insights on consumer behaviour, technology, design and food. Franke has a taken a bold step in this regard, it’s time for others to follow.Think Next by Franke | thinknextbyfranke.com