Technology


Meet Wim, the kitchen device that makes fro-yo in minutes




Posted on August 10, 2017


THE KITCHEN counter has become a crowded place. Alongside coffee machines, mixers, and toasters are now juicers, dehydrators, soda makers, and the darling of the home cooking set, the all-purpose Instapot.

Wim costs $299.
A new machine that wants to take its place in the gleaming, stainless-steel lineup: the Wim frozen yogurt maker. The unassuming, 15-pound gadget, similar in size to a Nespresso machine, plans to use convenient flash-freezing technology to become a major player in the frozen dessert category, which is estimated at $28 billion nationally and $60 billion worldwide. (Market research company Research & Markets projects that frozen desserts will be nearly a $30-billion industry in the US by 2020.)

AN AIRBNB EPIPHANY
Wim was conceived by entrepreneur Bart Stein, a veteran of Google in the late 2000s. Stein got the idea for Wim on vacation at an Airbnb in the Catskills woods in the winter of 2014 with friends who included Wim cofounder Anthony Cafaro. The group wanted to make dessert but found nothing that would help them get the job done in their rented kitchen. “There was an appliance for everything from coffee, to waffles, to soda; we realized there was no appliance for frozen dessert,” recounted Stein.

That is, strictly speaking, not true. There are hundreds of ice cream and frozen yogurt makers on the market, from the $1,200 Dream Ice Cream Machine to a Swirlio Frozen Fruit Dessert Maker that costs less than $30. But none of them is ubiquitous in the way that Sodastream has dominated the carbonated beverage category, perhaps because none projects a message of such simplicity. Most ice cream makers require you to make a custard base by boiling milk, sugar, and eggs, and freezing the mixture for hours. For noncooks such as Stein, the frozen dessert appliance market might as well not have existed. “I wasn’t aware there were ice cream makers, that’s how unuseful they are,” he said.

THE DESIGN
To build the machine, Stein enlisted engineers from OXO, the kitchen appliance company, Woodward, the aerospace company, and Apple. Stein made a rule at the beginning: just one button. “We didn’t want this to be an appliance that’s smarter than you are, that requires Wi-Fi or Bluetooth,” Stein said. We wanted to make it simple. Just press one button when the yogurt is done, and the machine stops. I want people to have a fresh bowl of frozen yogurt to eat, not a crazy display of lights and buttons.”

It took a team of 10 people almost two years to create the machine. It’s not easy to make a compact appliance with an elaborate cooling system. “In the kitchen, only large machines like refrigerators get cold quickly. The brief was to develop technology that could get cold at the press of button with zero refrigerant. It was a challenge from an engineering perspective; patents are pending,” Stein said.

Making fro-yo with Wim takes about 10 minutes, from pressing the button to a bowl of frozen yogurt. It doesn’t provide instant gratification, but it is a snack you can make while you’re doing something else. Wim machines go on sale Aug. 8 at wimyogurt.com. The $299 cost includes a variety five-pack of bowls. Additional bowl flavors are sold in packs of five, 10, and 20, and the flavors are customizable. Starting in the fall, Wim will be available on Amazon.com. -- Bloomberg