Campbell’s ‘Habit’ Fuses Food & Technology

Philadelphia Business Journal: “Campbell’s Soup Co. has become the sole investor of a San Francisco-based company that combines nutrition, technology and food delivery into one bundle. The Camden-based food company is investing $32 million in Habit, a personalized nutrition company that will launch in 2017. The company develops nutrition recommendations based on a person’s biology, metabolism and personal goals, and it creates a so-called personal blueprint.”

“Habit then delivers customized meals to the person’s doorstep, and offers one-on-one wellness and nutrition coaching as well … Habit users are given an at-home test kit that measures more than 60 different biomarkers, including nutrition-related blood markers and genetic variations in DNA. Users also provide body metrics like body weight and height, as well as health goals. Habit then synthesizes the data to determine food and nutrients best suited for each individual.”

Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison comments: “The entire food industry is being transformed by the fusion of food, well-being and technology … Campbell’s investment is part of our broader efforts to define the future of food, which requires fresh thinking, new models of innovation, smart external development and venture investing to create an ecosystem of innovative partners.”


Veggie Tots: The Future of Frozen Food?

Bloomberg Businessweek: “Big Food is betting that frozen food, a relic of Sputnik and the Mickey Mouse Club, can stir the hearts and palates of the quinoa generation even as sales figures have fallen each year since 2009. The products need to overcome a reputation, some of it earned and some not, that the meals found in your grocer’s freezer, often packed with sodium and preservatives, taste meh.”

“B&G is wooing millennials with frozen ‘veggie tots’ with broccoli and cauliflower. Kraft Heinz’s Devour line includes recipes like white cheddar mac and cheese with bacon, pulled-chicken burrito bowls and pesto ravioli with spicy Italian sausage … Conagra Foods Inc., the maker of leading brands Marie Callender’s and Banquet, is trying to bring some foodie prestige with its Wicked Kitchen line, which the company says was inspired by food trucks.”

“B&G is approaching the future with a little bit of the past. The pickle and snack company’s purchase of Green Giant nearly doubled its size and marked its first foray into the freezer case. It’s betting the Jolly Green Giant will tap into the nostalgia of parents looking to put vegetables on the dinner table while finding a new audience with millennials.”


Animalis: Beauty & The Beast Within

The New York Times: “Maybe it’s the desire of millennials to reclaim their beastly odors in an age of technological detachment, but fragrance buyers are newly excited to smell as if they come from an elegant zoo … A new line capitalizing on this trend is Eris Parfums, a collection from Barbara Herman.”

“Ms. Herman found that many of her favorite vintage perfumes relied on a base accord called Animalis … an unctuous golden liquid comprised civet, castoreum, costus and musk, and smelled a bit like body odor, dirty scalp, perspiration, butter and a horse stable. Though it sounds unappealing on its own, when combined with other materials, consumers couldn’t resist it. Animalis found its way into popular scents like Robert Piguet Visa and YSL Kouros.”

Stephen Dirkes, a self-taught perfumer, comments: “I like to think about how fashion is often elevated as an expression of personal style, like art you can wear, but it’s also an expression of self-loathing. Grasse, in France, where great perfumery came from, was also a tannery town. The smell of death and the smell of flowers went hand in hand.”


Glenn Gould, Steve Jobs & Perfection

Macleans: Glenn Gould, a Canadian musician who died 34 years ago, is “featured in a recurring presentation delivered by professor Joshua Cohen to senior managers at Apple University … Most at Apple aren’t familiar with Gould … But the more they learn about his lofty vision of creating a transcendent experience for listeners and his ultra-perfectionist ways, the more they realize Gould wasn’t all that different from the late Steve Jobs … Cohen says they also quickly come to appreciate Gould’s whole-hearted embrace of technology, as demonstrated by his controversial decision in the 1960s to focus exclusively on studio recording.”

“But perhaps the biggest lesson Gould holds … was his belief in creating something that’s not only new and different, but eminently worthwhile. ‘There’s this really large human purpose that guides the work,’ says Cohen. ‘It’s not innovation for innovation’s sake’ … Cohen’s presentation on Gould is just one of several he gives at the university … It’s part of a series called ‘The Best Things’—a reference to a remark that Jobs once made about ‘trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done, and then try to bring those things into what you’re doing’.”

“Equally as compelling for Apple employees is Gould’s forward-thinking attitude about technology. Gould once told an interviewer in 1966 that live audiences were a ‘force of evil’ because pleasing them took precedence over his pursuit of perfection. ‘I really thank God that I’m able to sit in a studio with enormous concentration and do things many times, if necessary,’ he said … At its core, Cohen says Apple’s mission is indeed to develop products that should be built, not finding a way to shoehorn every piece of new technology into people’s lives, wanted or not.”


Innovation & The Theory of Jobs To Be Done

The Wall Street Journal: “Businesses succeed when they help people do certain jobs. They fail when they lose sight of what that job is … Jobs are defined by the customers who hire companies to do them. The jobs are … expressed in verbs and nouns, not adjectives and adverbs. Some of the most successful companies in the world … are those whose very names have become synonymous with the job they help you do, such as Google, Uber, Xerox and TurboTax.”

“By contrast, ‘I need to have a chocolate milkshake that is in a twelve-ounce disposable container’ is a preference that confines both the customer and beverage provider to the milkshake category … The job customers ‘hire’ the breakfast milkshake for is … ‘I need something that will keep me occupied with what’s happening on the road while I drive. And also, I’d like this to fill me up so that I’m not hungry during a 10:00 a.m. meeting’ … Putting it that way forces drive-through owners to think much more broadly about what’s for breakfast.”

The Theory of Jobs to Be Done, as presented in Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen, et. al., recommends “creating internal processes that flex according to the needs of the job to be done, not the needs of the organization. When you buy something on Amazon, it will tell you something along the lines of: ‘If you order within the next 2 hours and 32 minutes, you’ll receive your product Tuesday.’ That isn’t Amazon simply trying to keep you posted. It’s a way to force the company’s internal processes to stay focused on what matters to the customer—the basic, all-too-easily forgotten job that customers need done.”


Kola House: Pepsi Pushes Cola Buzz

The Wall Street Journal: Pepsi’s Kola House, a new bar in NY’s Meatpacking District is mixing kola nuts “into cocktails such as the Curcuma, billed as an ‘enhancing appetizer of African and arabesque aromatics’ with turmeric, lemon and honeydew, and the Kola Love, a ‘dessert elixir and libido enhancer’ with red wine, vanilla and whipped cream. ‘We like to give people a flavor experience they haven’t had before,’ said Kola House flavor chemist Alex Ott, who trained as a biochemist in Germany.”

“Beverage-industry observers say companies like PepsiCo … are making a push into the bar scene, particularly in the all-important New York market, to reconnect with consumers who have lost interest in sugary sodas. Bars are ‘a great place if you want to get soft drinks in front of millennials,’ said Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest, a trade publication.”

“The cola buzz is also being driven by bartenders who see it as a way to jolt cocktails with flavor, reminiscent of the complex, heavily spiced cola drinks of the 19th century. Q Drinks’s Kola soda, for example, incorporates cloves, nutmeg, coriander and citrus, among other ingredients. The flavor is tangy, sweet and savory, said Jordan Silbert, the company’s founder and chief executive, but also familiar.”


The Death of The Dodge Dart

USA Today: “What went wrong with the Dodge Dart? … The Dart was supposed to signal a fresh start for Fiat Chrysler … Less than four and a half years later, the Dart is a footnote. Few people other than Dodge dealers are likely to notice when production ends this month … The Dart was the wrong car, at the wrong time, from the wrong brand. It launched into headwinds that would slow a great car, and the Dart was far from great … there was never a moment when the Dodge declared itself to be the best car in its class. It was not the clear leader in any area that drives customer demand.”

“Fiat Chrysler made it easy for customers to ignore the Dart, launching the car with ho-hum fuel economy and performance. Even in an era of low gasoline prices, claiming the best fuel economy generates headlines and gets buyers’ attention … Rather than delay the Dart, Fiat Chrysler hamstrung its new car with suboptimal gearboxes. For the first several months, the Dart was only available with a manual transmission — a disaster in the U.S., where automatics account for more than 90% of sales. When the automatics arrived, they were a Hyundai-built six-speed and a Fiat six-speed that used dual-clutch technology Americans generally dislike.”

“What does the Dart’s failure say about Fiat Chrysler’s future? Not much … Dropping the Dart frees Fiat Chrysler to concentrate on more popular and profitable vehicles … There’s no denying, though, that Fiat Chrysler committed the cardinal sin for an automaker: It began selling a car it knew, or should have known, was not ready.”


Chevy Bolt: A GM Dream Come True

Farhad Manjoo: “A first affordable long-range electric car, which I drove last month and which blew my mind, is not a Tesla … The car is the Chevy Bolt EV, a squat, wedge-shaped compact hatchback … It demonstrates the seriousness with which automakers are taking the threat posed by start-ups that are promising to alter everything about the car business. Not only is the Bolt the first inexpensive long-range electric on the road, but it will also function as G.M.’s platform for testing new models for ride-sharing and autonomous driving.”

“The Bolt is also proof that, in the car industry, size matters — that even if they may be slow to come around to the latest tech, big automakers can alter the car business even more radically than Tesla has, purely as a function of their bigness … What is revolutionary about the Bolt is that it bridges category distinctions — it brings luxury car electric range at mass-market prices. In fact, it beats the luxuries. In their cheapest configurations, every Tesla gets a lower range than the Bolt.”

“Most of G.M.’s advantages come down to size and operational efficiency … At the company’s Orion Assembly plant outside of Detroit, I saw Bolts on the same line as gas-powered Chevy Sonics and Buick Veranos. Robots and workers seamlessly shifted between the Bolt and more traditional cars as if nothing was different.” Also: “Because the … Bolt helps the company stay under the federal government’s fuel-economy standards, it perversely allows G.M. to keep selling more profitable, gas-guzzling cars … As a result, G.M. could lose money on each Bolt and still find the overall project valuable to its bottom line.”