Interview with Mara Behrens, VP of design and marketing at Chowbotics, an innovative food tech startup on a mission to bring fresh food anytime, anywhere.
Chowbotics CEO Deepak Sekar jokes that he got the idea for Sally the Robot back in 2014 as a lazy engineer. He wanted to create a robot to help him with the tedious tasks of home cooking, and so he began to develop small parts which would eventually evolve into Sally, the world’s first fresh food robot, today. For the first few years, Chowbotics was very much a concept based business, until Deepak met with an investor who worked with many fast food chains and was interested in getting a robot.
The company’s mission and promise to society is to serve and make fresh food accessible. Chowbotics is an innovative startup, and they are always working to develop new solutions and tech improvements through brainstorming and open forums.
Deepak reached out to Mara two years ago to join the team at Chowbotics. He was looking for someone to help the company push their brand and mission forward. Mara came from a creative world, working in startups for many years and dealing with graphic design. Her previous job was as a marketing leader at another food tech startup, which makes her creative specialty in the food tech industry a specific niche.
“I love younger startups since everyone comes from different backgrounds. For me, it’s all about understanding and cracking the code to what speaks to the consumers and how to tell our story in a meaningful way.”
Upon joining the team, the first major project she took on was related to branding. Although the company had already begun developing in the tech aspect, they needed an effective way to convey their mission and really sell their product. Mara helped the company understand what the product is, who the competitors are, and how to really tell the company’s story.
“Startups are really fun, but there’s always a lot of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is to really know what messages resonate best and to understand the pulse of the market. You need to understand why your product is unique and why it can really be a better solution than any other. I am all for the type of marketing that is not ‘I want to sell because I want to sell’, but that I really believe if I have a compelling product it can really help and be the best solution.”
The mentality at Chowbotics is customer focused, since the customers are the ones that drive the business forward. There have been many struggles in terms of budget and demand, as well as finding the correct target market since the product has so many opportunities. The company’s focus has seen a slight change with the impact of Covid-19.
“We are a much safer way to consume fresh products, and we are starting to become a replacement for salad bars. We always understood that hygiene and freshness is important, but now with COVID-19 we are highlighting this message even more. Bringing fresh food in this new world means with safety, and that is our mission we are continuing to improve our product on.”
Sally the Robot is a three step process for users: choose, pay, and receive the meal. There is a tablet for the user to customize their salad, yogurt parfait, or bowl, and the tablet also displays immediate and accurate nutritional value for every selection. There are currently 100 robots around the United States and Europe.
“We are a team of 36 people from different places over the United States, Canada, India, France, China, and Malaysia. It is a very global and agile startup.”
In the future, Mara sees Sally available everywhere from campuses to convenience and grocery stores. Not only are the robots absolutely transparent with nutritional facts, but they also enable people to make better choices in comparison to using a vending machine.
“I really think it’s going to be the way people access fresh foods in the future.”
To learn more about Chowbotics, visit them here. To see our interview with ProjectileX click here. If you’re interested in the most recent business secrets, check out our Business Knowledge page. If you want to stay up to date with the most recent BWS news, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!