Online supermarket Ocado has acquired a minority stake robotics start-up Karakuri.
The robotics start-up has the potential to revolutionise the preparation of ready-to-eat meals, said Ocado, with a machine that automates meal assembly.
Ocado Group’s ventures arm led the £7m seed round with an equity investment of £4.75m for 18 per cent of the company and will take a seat on the board.
If the online supermarket meets certain pre-agreed targets in the take-up of this technology, it would then be given the right to purchase additional shares in the company.
Ocado said it hopes that the investment in Karakuri will provide the chance to expand its grocery offering after it takes delivery of the first machines in the second half of 2019.
“Our investment in Karakuri, potentially a game-changer in the preparation of food-to-go, gives us the opportunity to bring the best of innovation to the benefit of our own customers as well as those of our partners,” said Tim Steiner, Chief Executive of Ocado.
Barney Wragg, Chief Executive of Karakuri, said consumer eating habits demanded healthier options with more specific dietary requirements.
“This growth in menu personalisation is putting huge pressure on restaurants, cafes and other food retailers.
“By using robotics and machine learning, Karakuri’s systems provide localised micro-manufacturing within an existing restaurant, retail or commercial kitchen.
“Our systems prepare personalised meals onsite in real-time and to the exact requirement of each customer.”