Pepper Grinder Shuts off Tech to Reclaim Family Dinner Time


Dolmio, the Australian pasta sauce brand, has developed a high-tech pepper grinder that blocks Wifi and shuts down electronic devices including tablets and TVs. The Australian brand aims to make dinnertime more about the ritual of families eating and connecting and less about faces glued to screens.

With a single twist, the Dolmio Pepper Hacker turns off Wifi, mobile apps and the TV for half an hour so that families can enjoy dinner by talking to one another. Pepper Hacker was developed by lemenger BBDO Sydney, Pollen, Starcom and Ogilvy PR.

Dolmio published a creative ad campaign around April Fools’ Day which led many to question its authenticity. As the official campaign spot by Dolmio Australia asserts:

“Technology has hijacked dinnertime. So to bring families together, Dolmio has hijacked technology.”

Dolmio offered the pepper mill to frustrated moms for a test drive during dinnertime, and “tablets and tantrums were thrown but the world didn’t end,” Dolmio reassures in its video ad.

Dolmio Marketing director Richard Stear says that Pepper Hacker, which is still in its early development phase, will improve communication and interaction during dinnertime:

“We believe that meals shared with family and friends are often distracted by the very technology that is supposed to bring us closer together, so we’ve created the Dolmio Pepper Hacker to help connect us with the people in front of us.

Pepper Hacker is just a prototype and it’s not ready for sale, Anne Schwartz senior editor at Co.Exist writes.

“The Dolmio Pepper Hacker might not be available to every household yet but we believe that our experiment perfectly shows that once you disconnect from your technology at the dinner table you can really connect as a family”, Richard Stear says.

There are plans for Pepper Hacker to enter design competitions, according to The Telegraph.

The pepper grinder shuts down electrical products connected to a main power hub, Saffron Alexander writes. For the Pepper Hacker to turn off Wifi in tablets and smartphones, these devices must first be connected to AirWatch, an app that remotely locks devices.

Bustle’s Sara Levine was not pleased to discover that the product although advertised is not yet for sale:

“[T]hink of all the families that could be brought together once they were forced to actually interact! You can’t just give us the Pepper Hacker and then take it all away, Dolmio!”

Ariel Schwartz of the Fast Company says: “Better that someone come up with a similar but more portable device that can be toted around everywhere.”

A Dolmio-commissioned survey reveals that a typical Australian household has twelve electronic devices and that 69% of all households surveyed have had a tech-related argument at the dinner table, stressing the need of such interventions that facilitate interaction.

Other studies have warned of the tech addiction of youth and adults. A University of Derby study reveals that one in eight people are addicted to their smartphones. Overuse of smartphones and other Internet-enabled devices has also been associated with moodiness and depression.