[SUCCESS STORY] Instant Pot, the casserole dish that deposits on Amazon
A computer doctor on the floor
In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, Robert J. Wang is forced to quit the mobile messaging company he helped create. This Canadian, alumnus of Nortel, PhD in computer science with a specialty in artificial intelligence, and more than 20 years of experience in telecommunications, then look for a new idea to relaunch. After naturally eyeing the tech side, it is inside his home that he finally identifies the need that his new business would meet.
“We had two young children, said Wang. At the time, we ate a lot of take-out meals: making a healthy dinner was a real challenge. ” He began to imagine a device smart enough to cook quickly, well and without too much supervision.
Mr. Wang recruits two other engineers and invests $ 350,000 of his savings to develop a high-tech device that would combine pressure cooker, slow cooker, sauté pan, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker and stove, all with a microprocessor, thermal sensors and defined programs, in order to intelligently control cooking. After 18 months of work, the Instant Pot was born.
215,000 devices sold in 24 hours, a turnover that doubles every year
Two years later, in 2012, Double Insight, Wang’s company, became profitable and has doubled its turnover every year since. In 2016, on the occasion of Amazon Prime Day, the company sold more than 215,000 Instant Pots in one day. For the Black friday 2017, Instant Pot featured in the top 5 bestsellers at Amazon, Target, and in the Top 3 at Kohl’s. On this occasion, Double Insight would have had 500,000 units manufactured to meet demand.
The device arouses such fervor as the number of its fans – who call themselves among themselves Pot Heads – now exceeds 1.2 million on the only official Facebook group. They exchange recipes, tips and tricks, film themselves with their machine, decorate it with ad hoc stickers bought on Etsy and take charge of evangelizing the boeotians on all social networks.
And unlike some kitchen appliances (looking at you, Thermomix), the Instant Pot is not even particularly expensive, nor very stylish: some models sell for less than $ 100. But according to its users, and if we are to believe the 25,000 rave reviews that follow one another on Amazon, the Instant Pot has changed lives – and more prosaically, upset the market, according to observers.
Many Anglo-Saxon media, press and television (ABC, NBC, BBC, LA Times, NY Times, CNBC, USA Today, Inc,…), have since taken hold of what they present as a social phenomenon. So the New-York Times describes Wang’s company as “A remarkable example of a 21st century start-up, a household appliance company with barely 50 employees, which has grown to enormous size, purely through the force of word of mouth and internet communities, without spending anything on advertising . ” But it’s also a testament to Amazon’s enormous influence, and its ability to transform a small business into a small international empire, almost overnight.
The Amazon launch pad, coupled with the power of influencer marketing
Because everything did not come easily at the Instant Pot. In 2010, Wang marketed his invention in Ottawa (province of Ontario), where the company was based, but sales were weak. He decides to list his product on Amazon. This then catches the eye of food bloggers, notably among the paleo and vegetarian communities – each of these groups, with different philosophies, seeking to combine the benefits of a healthy and non-industrial diet with the constraints of modern life. However, this is precisely what the device allows, to cook quickly and unattended foods deemed to be long and / or complicated to cook, whether it is lentils, a large piece of meat, or even a cheesecake.
Because after all, pressure cooking, the main feature of the Instant Pot, is really nothing new. This is the principle behind the pressure cookers of our grandmothers, the famous “pressure cooker” (SEB trademark). But the Instant Pot has succeeded in bringing this technique up to date, which cuts cooking times by three, by covering it with technologies to lift the brake on the safety of the appliance (the anguish of the exploding casserole dish is never very far), and to make it coincide with the need for health and the trend of home-made.
Moulinex (SEB group) also launched its Cookeo multicooker in 2012, at around 250 euros. It should be noted, moreover, that the latter is beginning to suffer the first assaults of its American competitor on the French market – via the globalization of internet communities, the ease of translating recipes or understanding them in video, distribution on Amazon, a half price less, but also more functional aspects (for example, no non-stick coating, the harmlessness of which is currently questioned, but a stainless steel tank on Instant Pot). The French group dedicated to Instant Pot has only 3,000 people, but those who do come to find out because they hesitate between the two products, and seek decisive advice from early-adopters.
Double Insight very quickly perceives the viral potential of its product, and then sends Instant Pots to around 200 influencers, chefs, coaches and food bloggers. The latter – men and women – take hold of the product, create their content around it specific to their positioning (lose weight, eat veggie, eat paleo, cook quickly, cook for the family, cook in your motorhome or even in its 36-ton, etc.). Sales take off. To date, more than 1,500 cookbooks have been written to the glory of the Instant Pot.
Early on, Instant Pot joined the “Fulfillment by Amazon” program, in which Amazon takes care of the packaging and shipping of a seller’s products in exchange for a percentage of each item sold. Subsequently, with success, Instant Pot sent Instant Pots en masse to Amazon, directly from the factories that manufacture them in China. For its part, Amazon begins to highlight the product during its event days, Black friday or Amazon Prime Day. At one point, over 90% of Instant Pot’s sales were made through Amazon. Wang knows this very well: “Without Amazon, we wouldn’t be here.”
A segment growing by 80% in one year, and a still low equipment rate
And major appliance manufacturers, such as Cuisinart and Breville in the United States, have taken note of Instant Pot’s success and launched their own versions. The revisited multifunction pressure cooker has become the current segment in the Cooking category: in 2017, sales of electric multicookers increased by 79%, according to NPD Group.
Wang, however, believes that the cult generated by his product online gives him a head start, and takes care of his community. He claims to follow videos, new blogs, and read all the reviews on Amazon, which he says provide him with clues for designing new features, like the Bluetooth connectivity of the fourth-generation model, which adjusts the time of the day. cooking according to the user’s altitude (because yes, your altitude can influence the weather, when pressure cooking, did you know?). Without detailing his other projects, he also wants to modernize other appliances in the kitchen by adding sensors and microprocessors, and possibly connecting them to the cloud.
But is diversification really urgent for Double Insight? Still according to the same NPD Group study, only 11.5% of American households own an electric multicooker, as many Pot Heads who still ignore each other, and new customers for Mr. Wang to win.