There is a new pot in town, in case you haven’t heard. It’s called… Instant Pot.
This new pot wasn’t created by chefs or an existing cookware vendor. Instead, some resourceful networking and telecommunications engineers decided to create a pot employing the latest technology, to create the best cooking experience. These brilliant and inspired engineers (from Canada, of course) essentially created an electric pressure cooker and slow cooker in one. The merged device focuses on ease of use, speed and product safety. The result is a pot that is disrupting the cooking industry and impacting dining tables across North America.
What is driving the sale of more than a million of these pots? What is motivating its almost fanatical user base to write rave Amazon.com reviews and create Pinterest recipe board after Pinterest recipe board? In my opinion, the product was able to fulfill a modern need that was previously overlooked by any other existing cooking device.
The Instant Pot team took 18 months to design the first iteration of the Instant Pot. The engineers who invented the pot made an effort at the onset to better solve the user’s problem, rather than add a function or feature to an existing design. Clearly, the team made an effort to understand the user’s goals before designing the product.
Users want to have a healthy home cooked meal at the end of the day
As a working mom, I want to provide healthy food and well-planned meals for my family. The fact is, I work full time–I can’t deliver a savory pot of curried chicken on a Wednesday evening, after catching the train home from the office. The Instant Pot team recognized that in our fast-paced world, there is still a need for healthy cuisine that has a “slow cooked” flavor–so they focused on quickening the cook time without sacrificing flavor.
Cooking and sharing a meal is a key social endeavor
The Instant Pot team also understood that cooking is core to human interaction and socialization. The CEO of the Instant Pot, Robert Wang, noted in an NPR article that, “cooking is very much a social behavior. If people make good food, they will be raving about it, including the tools used….” Wang and his team instinctively knew if they built a product that would encourage families sitting down together, it would be a win for not only the product but also for the families themselves.
The Instant Pot team started by first understanding the problem, developing a deep understanding of the user they were creating the product for and used those insights to inform the design of their magical pot.
Additionally, the team identified pain points with the existing tools. (When it comes to pressure cookers, the term pain point has both a figurative and literal application!)
Pressure cookers are complicated and dangerous devices
The team acknowledged that pressure cookers are not “easy to use” devices and wanted to alleviate that user pain point. In the Ottawa Citizen article, Wang noted that he “still [remembers] yellow stains on the ceiling in my neighbour’s kitchen when I was a child… they opened the lid too soon, and the food hit the ceiling and caused minor burns. It was really scary at the time.”
I too have a horror story with a pressure cooker. After relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area from Canada, as a young woman, one night I had a craving for my Mom’s authentic Indian lentils. My friend Deepak suggested we use his pressure cooker and recreate the sumptuous dish our Punjabi mothers had so often prepared. There was a flurry of phone calls to discuss ingredients, followed by the obligatory warning by both mothers to be careful using the pressure cooker. We worked through the meal prep, “steaming” with anticipation. The time to enjoy the lentils of our labors finally arrived, and we eagerly joined forces to remove the cooker’s weight and then its lid. To our shock and dismay, the ingredients in the pressure cooker spewed all over the kitchen, showering us with scalding droplets. We were unharmed, but our cooking egos suffered some minor burns.
Slow cookers are well… slow
While pressure cookers allow for quick meals (if you are successful at mastering them), slow cookers require patience and time, and are basically a whole day affair. Personally, I only use the slow cooker on days when I know I am home and babysit and “stir the pot” occasionally.
And… some tastes are compromised in the slow cooker
Additionally, if you are a true foodie, the flavors of the food gets compromised in the slow cooker. This simply happens as the items in the slow cooker are in an enclosed pot all day and no steam is removed. Condensation builds on the lid and eventually drips back into the slow cooker, resulting in diluted flavors and mushy vegetables.
The Instant Pot understood these core user pain points with the existing tools, and sought to create a device that would provide the best flavors without compromising safety and ease of use.
As an article in Today noted, the Instant Pot has programmed cooking settings, “including soup, poultry, rice, beans and chili, and stews—[taking] most of the guesswork out of how long and how high to pressure-cook a meal.”
Finally, the inventors of the Instant Pot are committed to continuously improving and refining the Instant Pot product for their users.
As noted in the Ottawa Citizen article:
The second iteration Instant Pot added a sauté function, so you can brown meat, then add other ingredients to the same pot to make a slow-cooker stew, for example, without dirtying more than one (dishwasher-safe) pot.The third Instant Pot, called the 7-in-1, added yogurt-maker to the pressure-cooker, slow-cooker, rice-cooker, porridge-maker, steamer and sauté-pan functions.
A key method to improve the product is through their customer community. The Instant Pot has an engaged customer base who have the ability to suggest features on the Instant Pot website. In turn, the development team at Instant Pot promises that they will release a new design every 12-18 month and provide the upgraded model free of charge to any users who have provided suggestions that have been included in the release. The community and customer engagement is key to the success of the product. Wang notes: “If the company can continue to provide quality products and support its customers and online community as it grows, Instant Pot will have staying power.”
While the Instant Pot might not be the next iPhone app nor enterprise solution, the inventors of the device seem to have approached the creation and design of the pot keeping the user at the center of their product design. Unmet customer needs were fulfilled and user pain points were addressed when the first Instant Pot was released. As the product has matured and evolved, the Instant Pot team remains focused to stay close to that customer base by relying on customer suggestions to develop future iterations of the pot.
Instant Pot’s approach to better solving the user’s problem has enabled them to create cookware that has a delightful and superior user experience. The product today has almost an almost fanatical following which owes little to traditional marketing methods. Success for Instant Pot will continue as long as the company remains innovative and connected to their user base.