Anova – The Precision Cooker
“Give someone a fish, and they’ll eat for a day: give someone a Precision Cooker, and they will eat like a boss forever, impress their friends and family constantly, and most likely star in their own cooking show.” – Michael Tankenoff 
I’ve spent most of my life eating Thanksgiving turkey that was overcooked. “Better safe than sorry” was the mantra my mom and dad used when cooking meat; especially poultry. Their caution stemmed from the harmful pathogens that are found in almost all poultry . Symptoms of eating under-cooked turkey can range anywhere from a tummy-ache all the way to death . Cooking meat to proper internal temperatures destroys the nasty pathogens that could kill you .
In their attempt to reach the proper internal temperatures, many home-chefs end up bringing internal temperatures way above the necessary level. High internal temperatures dry out meat and can end up producing turkey with the texture of sawdust (Yuck!).
Enter the Anova Precision Cooker
The Anova precision cooker combines the best of French-modernist sous vide cooking with Silicon Valley smartphone technology. The combination yields a cooking experience so simple, that anyone can make restaurant quality food in their home.
Sous Vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that came about in the 1970’s. It was an important innovation in the cooking space because it allowed chefs to achieve precise internal temperatures with their foods – without the risk of overcooking. The cooking method involves submerging meat (or veggies), vacuum sealed in a plastic bag, into a water bath that is heated to the appropriate temperature (typically between 130 and 145 degrees). The meat sits in the water bath until its internal temperature rises to the temperature of the water bath. Since the submerged meat can’t get hotter than the temperature of the water bath, it can’t overcook. The result is a tender succulent piece of meat that retains more natural flavor than traditional cooking methods yield .
The popularity of sous vide cooking grew slowly initially, despite its desirable results. Today though, it is one of the leading food preparation trends in the restaurant space .
Anova saw there was a growing segment of amateur chefs interested in using the techniques of world class chefs. Anova also saw a gap in the way that consumers interacted with kitchen appliances; everything from our home thermometer to our garage door can be controlled from our phones – why not our kitchen appliances? Anova took its idea to Kickstarter and raised $1.8 million dollars in funding to launch its product – the Anova Precision Cooker .
Anova generates the bulk of its revenue through product sales. The precision cooker currently runs between $130-$200 depending on which model you buy, and where you buy it (the 900 Watt model goes for $169 on Amazon ). However, the value proposition of the Anova precision cooker extends beyond the physical product and into the digital space. Downloading the free app unlocks the digital value.
First, the mobile app gives owners the ability to start, stop, and control the temperature of the precision cooker directly from their phone – whether they are at home, or across town. In addition to running the precision cooker the app also has a library for new recipes, tools to share and save recipes, as well as video tutorials .
Anova is betting that by bringing control of the cooker into customers’ smartphones, it will integrate into its customers’ lives more seamlessly. It’s also betting that by providing free recipe content it will make its product stickier for customers when the time comes to upgrade or replace old cookers. A benefit to Anova, is that data collected from the app could be used to inform future upgrades and innovations.
One critique of the precision cooker is that the smart phone control and recipe library are gimmicky, especially compared to how consumers traditionally interact with kitchen appliances. In a world where smartphone users expect to link everything to their phone though, I think that smart phone connectivity is quickly becoming the standard. As far as the recipe feature goes, sous vide cooking is a very niche space without the same following as more traditional methods (e.g. grilling); because of this, being able to share and receive recipe content with other users is actually a large value add. I think that Anova should take the sharing one step further and build an option into the app that lets owners easily share the food they make on social media. Encouraging owners to share the food they make will help create organic marketing for the precision cooker.
Momentum for the Anova precision cooker continues to grow. Anova recently signed a deal with Target putting the precision cooker into all 1,800 Target stores . As more people buy the precision cooker, develop and share recipes, and use the digital features, its popularity will continue to grow. To me, the only question that remains to be answered is this: how would you like your turkey cooked this thanksgiving: safe-as-sawdust or precisely-delicious?
 About Us. Anova website. 11/17/2016, https://anovaculinary.com/about-us/
 Attribution of Foodborne Illness: Findings. CDC. 07/16/2016, http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/attribution/attribution-1998-2008.html
 Safe Food Handling: What You Need to Know. FDA. 09/01/2016, http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm255180.htm.
 Hesser, Amanda. Under Pressure. New York Times. 08/14/2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/14/magazine/under-pressure.html
 Leading trends in food preparation methods on restaurant menus in the United States in 2016*. Satista. 09/2015, https://www-statista-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/statistics/293966/leading-trends-in-food-preparation-methods-on-restaurant-menus-us/
 Anova Precision Cooker – Cook sous vide with your phone. Kickstarter. 11/17/2016. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anova/anova-precision-cooker-cook-sous-vide-with-your-ip
 New: Anova Precision Cooker – WIFI 2nd Gen (900 Watts). Amazon. 11/17/2016. https://www.amazon.com/Anova-Culinary-PCB-120US-K1-Bluetooth-Precision/dp/B01HHWSV1S/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1479420707&sr=1-2&keywords=Anova%2Bprecision%2Bcooker&th=1
 Meet the Anova App. Anova website. 11/17/2016, https://anovaculinary.com/app/
 Target Selects Anova to Lead In-Store Innovation in the Kitchen, Offering Customers Smart Kitchen Experience with Anova. Anova website. 06/27/2016. https://anovaculinary.com/press/
Student comments on Anova – The Precision Cooker
It’s interesting that the company prioritized integration of smartphone controls into their original product design as such a young business – I wonder how much of that decision was driven by the hope of increased hype / marketing value vs. actual expected use. The product itself seems very on trend, and maybe this was the right way to stand out in what could become a more competitive field.
I agree with your assessment that smartphone application proliferation is already crowded, and will only become more crowded for consumers. It will be interesting to see if a developer is able to create a master application through which to operate all other smart home apps (i.e., one app with individual product apps plugged into the back-end).
As an avid slow cooker user, I am interested in the digital innovation this brings. It can be worrisome to leave the house with food cooking knowing there is absolutely no way to verify how the process is going. I usually have an irrational fear that I somehow forgot to turn it on, or that the device will malfunction and burn down my house. This technology addresses those concerns, and gives that peace of mind. One potential barrier to entry is vacuum sealing. Is there an accompanying device that needs to be bought? A partnership with Ziploc?
As an owner of Anova, I think it’s amazing that this company is able to make this technology more accessible for the masses. Polyscience is a company that has been producing innovative cooking technology and sous vide machines for years before Anova. But their main target audience are high-end restaurants and professional chefs, and products sell in the range of over a thousand dollars. Anova is able to focus their cost on just the aspect of the controlled-temperature water circulator, which is the most important feature of a sous vide cooker. The consumer has the flexibility of cooking their food in any vessel as long as the compact machine is attached and connected to the water.
One area of improvement I can see for Anova is perhaps expanding into food refrigeration. Ideally, a user could store the food in cold temperature and be able to choose when to turn on the cooker remotely without worrying about food spoilage. Mellow  is actually experimenting with this idea, and has a lot more sophisticated mobile app than Anova’s (but also selling at twice the cost).