Let's Talk About That PitchBook Report on Beverage Robots...

It might not be the best place to start to understand drink automation.

I don’t want to be tperson who has to put others down to boost myself up. I mean it. So please keep that in mind when I say that PitchBook’s “Beverage Robots Automation increasing profit margins in foodservice” report released this week is… odd, to say the least.

Before I go any further, please know that I heart PitchBook. A lot. It has provided tons of great data that has been the basis for many a story from me over the years. But that’s what made this report all the more baffling. (FWIW, I also sent them a note privately about the report first, but didn’t hear back.)

Like any PitchBook report, it is filled with good data and stats on the market and VC investment in the beverage automation. I’ll direct you to download it (free in exchange your contact info.) rather than spoil it all here.

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The report has a heavy focus on Botrista, which makes a countertop, cloud-connected mocktail machine for the hospitality sector. Cool! Botrista is awesome. My issue is more around the companies PitchBook lists as “Key VC-backed beverage robot companies.” Pitchbook lists:

  • Bevi

  • Vingoo Juice

  • Sestra Systems

  • Spinn

  • Cafe X

  • Bartesian

  • Blendid

  • Mitte

  • Numilk

  • Botrista

  • Bruvi

The report also highlights the collaboration between Miso Robotics and Lancer to create an automated beverage dispenser to speed up drink service at QSR drive-thrus, and off-handedly mentions Smyze.

Holy market map — this list is all over the place.

To be fair, PitchBook says there are different categories of beverage bots: Commercial Robots, Robot Kiosks, and Consumer and Other Retail. But if you wanted to get a good sense of the key players in the automated beverage space, I don’t think PitchBook’s list is a great place to start. It’s mixing and matching target markets and leaves out a lot of players.

I think the first issue is the age old question: what is a robot?

The companies listed in the PitchBook report range from actual robots (Blendid, Cafe X) to vending machines (Brevi, Vingoo Juice) to industrial commercial systems (Sestra’s smart drink taps) to countertop appliances (Bruvi, Bartesian, Spinn).

It’s fine if you want to use “robot” as a catch all for automation (I do it sometimes), but a report on “robots” should clarify its terms. Bruvi and Spinn are literal coffee machines. The Mitte is a fancy SodaStream to make mineral water. Including them as “robots” only muddles the term to the point of making it useless.

More surprising is the companies that are not listed by PitchBook. If you wanted to get a better picture of the beverage robot space, the list should include robot baristas like Costa Coffee/Briggo, Crown Digital, and Truebird; and other cocktail robots such as Barney, EBar, and Makr Shakr. (Check out OttOmate’s guides to Robot Baristas and Robot Bartenders for more).

I think my issue with PitchBook’s report is the title. PitchBook has a superb reputation, so people looking to understand the emerging food and beverage automation space will likely glom on to this report as authoritative on the drink robotics space. But the report gives such a mish-mash of players that readers will walk away from it with an incomplete — and honestly confusing — picture of the market.

At the end of the day, this isn’t the end of the world. But the entire space is in its infancy, better to give people a better understanding before any confusion calcifies.

And look. I’m going to do the thing here where I tell you that OttOmate offers consulting services to help you truly understand the food and beverage automation space. But that’s because I don’t really compete with PitchBook. I can’t. They are huge and awesome and have tons of data and relevant insights. The automated beverage market is going to be huge, and there’s plenty of room for everyone, and there’s a big opportunity to drink it all in before it becomes mainstream.