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In 2022, sky-high prices suddenly made every European aware of how much energy they consume. One easy way to use less is to adopt an ancient method of preparing food: passive cooking. Italian pasta brand Barilla is now taking a thoroughly modern approach to promote the technique, with a smart device and a bot.
The basics of passive cooking are simple: as soon as water starts boiling, throw in the bucatini, then turn off the stove after two minutes. Put a lid on the pot and wait for the advised number of minutes to pass. The combination of a two-minute boil and the stove-off waiting period is generally a minute or two longer than traditional, stove-on cooking, but the process saves up to 80% in CO₂ equivalent emissions.
While the process isn't complicated — and Barilla lists passive cooking times in a table — the brand wanted to make it even easier for customers to adopt. So, they developed the Passive Cooker, a smart device that sits on top of a pot's lid and pairs with the cook's phone to ping them when they need to turn off their stove and when their pasta is ready. Barilla developed a prototype, but it's distributing Passive Cooker as an open-source project, providing design files and a list of parts to purchase.
Of course, only a small percentage of consumers will 3D print and assemble their own smart device. For everyone else, Barilla launched the Passive Cooking Bot — a chatbot that guides people with step-by-step instructions by way of WhatsApp messages.
Due to the war in Ukraine and gas shortages in Europe, energy prices have spiked. If forecasts of a colder-than-usual November and December prove correct, consumers will face even greater economic pressure in the months ahead.
In a cost of living crisis, every saving helps. Like Barilla says, just a few minutes can help save money and carbon dioxide emissions. Digital solutions like the Passive Cooker and the Passive Cooking chatbot are relatively low-cost ways for brands — or what we've long called BRAND BUTLERS — to go the extra mile in providing practical support to customers when they need it most.
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