The grocery industry is feeling the heat from Amazon, but Aisle Ahead has no plans to get out of the kitchen.
Instead, the company is facing competition from Amazon head-on. This week, Aisle Ahead acquired BigOven, a Seattle startup that helps home cooks plan meals. As part of the acquisition, Aisle Ahead rebranded from VIC.
Seattle tech vet Steve Murch launched BigOven in 2004 and grew the app for the past 14 years without taking any outside capital. He chose not to seek outside investments so that he wouldn’t be beholden to investors and could spend more time with his family.
“I do think not taking outside capital put a bit of a ceiling on our growth, however, because I was personally willing to put only so much capital at risk,” Murch told GeekWire in an email. “It was all a very conscious and deliberate tradeoff, and it was absolutely the right one for me to make, given what we were able to do.”
BigOven has a database of hundreds of thousands of recipes that home cooks can schedule out using a built-in calendar. The app also allows users to automatically transfer ingredients from recipes into a shopping list. Aisle Ahead offers technology products for grocers. The acquisition will allow Aisle Ahead to integrate shoppable recipes and additional tools into the suite of products it provides to grocery retailers.
“Aisle Ahead’s portfolio unites VIC’s powerful and flexible digital consumer engagement and e-commerce platform with BigOven’s massive recipe database, knowledge of home cooks, personalization infrastructure, blogger network, API, and social network,” said Aisle Ahead CEO Steve Siopsis in a statement. “The combination allows us to deliver ideal solutions for any grocer wishing to compete effectively, after hearing the wake-up call from Amazon and Whole Foods.”
That wake-up call came in June when Amazon announced plans to buy the upscale grocery chain for $13.7 billion. The deal sent shockwaves through the grocery industry. Amazon had already been moving into grocery with two AmazonFresh Pickup sites, the Amazon Go store, and the rollout of the AmazonFresh grocery delivery service across the country.
Amazon may be a formidable opponent but Murch believes its Whole Foods acquisition was a net gain for the grocery tech industry.
“The moment that happened, everyone in the once-sleepy category said, ‘hold on, we need to know much more about home cooks. We need access to their preferences and household grocery lists and menu plans,’ … Amazon’s entry has caused retailers to look carefully and creatively at the value chain, and we at Aisle Ahead strongly believe we have good solutions for them.”
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed but Aisle Ahead did say Murch will join its board of directors as part of the deal.
“The app and platform will continue, and I’ll still be involved, but as a director, not developer,” Murch said in a Facebook post. “Aisle Ahead is a leader in grocery retail technology. This combination lets us ‘complete the last mile’ and help equip grocers and cooks in the new world of home delivery of groceries, help shoppers make better decisions, create better modes of in-store pickup and delivery, and get our social cooking platform in many more places.”