Amy’s Drive-Thru: Meat-Free Fast Food

Fast Company: “Amy’s Drive Thru is America’s first vegetarian, organic, gluten-free-optional fast-food restaurant, and much to the surprise of the owners, it’s doing more than holding its own against its greasy competitors … Business has been so booming at Amy’s Drive Thru in its two years of operation that it’s beginning a chain.”

“For 29 years, the Petaluma, California-based Amy’s Kitchen has gained a cult following as a purveyor of family-style, vegetarian frozen meals, from macaroni and cheese to burritos, all handmade fresh in three operating facilities across California, Oregon, and Idaho, and shipped nationwide … The drive-through is powered by solar panels, and the tableware is recyclable. Using mostly organic and local produce for ingredients is more expensive, but it’s what customers expect from the company.”

“Whereas a standard fast-food restaurant has around 15 employees per outpost, Amy’s Drive Thru employs over 90 because it takes many more people to prepare the food … A true cross-country empire of Amy’s locations is still far off … The company wants to expand slowly, to ensure that they can partner with local farmers and producers around each location … and to understand where the drive-throughs could have the greatest effect in breaking up health-food deserts.”

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Cultured Coffee: Fermented Beans

The Wall Street Journal: “Pickles, kimchi and even sauerkraut juice are becoming more popular. Could the next big thing in fermented offerings be coffee? Afineur, a Brooklyn-based biotechnology company, is selling just that—a product called Cultured Coffee in which the beans have gone through a special fermentation process … coffee often is fermented as a way to break down and ultimately remove the ‘mucilage’ that covers the bean. But Afineur employs a secondary fermentation, adding water and specific microbes to the cleaned beans and letting science take over. The additional step ensures that the coffee is less bitter and easier to digest.”

“The company was launched with the help of a Kickstarter campaign that raised $55,000 … It now sells its coffee via online—a 5-ounce bottle of beans costs $19.99 on the website—and in a few New York City stores … The company has plans to introduce items beyond coffee that also take advantage of the fermentation processes it is developing.”

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Cornell & Ferrero: Technology & Chocolate

The Wall Street Journal: “Global chocolate giant Ferrero International S.A. plans to bring its open innovation science division to the Bridge at Cornell Tech … At first glance, Ferrero may not seem to fit the mold of a typical technology firm, but the company and its technological pursuits are compatible with the broader mission of the Bridge.”

“The building was designed to foster connections among Cornell Tech faculty and students, established companies, startups, government agencies and nonprofits. The goal is to attract companies from a wide range of sectors looking to tap into entrepreneurial ideas and new technologies generated by Cornell Tech, as well as to recruit graduates. Ferrero’s team plans to explore improvements of products and operations, as well as ways to enhance farming methods and sustainable food production … Ferrero hopes to expand its innovation team on the campus in part by hiring Cornell Tech graduates.”

“We will develop cutting-edge research and technologies that will have transformational effects on our products and business,” Giovanni Battistini, Ferrero vice president of open innovation science, said in a statement.

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Quote of the Day: Rishad Tobaccowala

“The way I think about advertising is it’s in secular decline and I need to think about products and services much more than I need to think about communication.” ~ Rishad Tobaccowala, chief growth officer for the Publicis Groupe, in The New York Times.

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MoviePass: Like Netflix for Theaters

Vulture: “The subject of the week in Hollywood is MoviePass, a company from the co-founder of Netflix and Redbox that’ll let you go to the movies once a day, every day, for just $9.95 a month — just barely more than the average price of a single ticket, and less in cities like New York and Los Angeles. While MoviePass has been around for a little while now, it’s in the news at the moment because of that new, comically low price point, as well as the controversy it’s provoking among theaters.”

“What the company hopes to offer over time is a large base of proven, frequent moviegoers — and the proprietary information that comes from having access to their every ticket-buying decision. It’s a Big Data move, one that will utilize investor money to subsidize a money-losing business model in the hopes that other revenue streams will eventually open up, most likely coming from the likes of AMC, who might one day offer MoviePass tickets at a discount and use the consumers’ behavioral information to improve advertising, curation, concessions, and so on.”

“MoviePass’s challenge is that it threatens to cut into the revenue stream of Hollywood’s most loyal customer, with the added, ethereal benefit of ‘data,’ a concept with which theaters already have a complicated relationship, considering the struggles of tracking and the unpopularity of in-theater advertising. And ultimately, it isn’t good for anyone in the business of movie-making if people become used to the idea that they should be entitled to all movies for ten bucks a month. Just look at the music industry.”

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Pizza Al Taglio Doesn’t Cut Corners

The Wall Street Journal: “A number of New York pizza makers are now offering the classic treat with different geometry: Their ‘pies’ aren’t pie-shaped. Instead, they are based on a rectangular-shaped style, known as pizza al taglio, that is popular in Rome. Further distinguishing this version: Slices are often served at room temperature. And when it comes to cutting the pizza, forget about the traditional wheel-style cutter. This is a pizza best divided with a scissors.”

“To some extent, the interest in pizza al taglio speaks to the appetite New Yorkers have for a broadening array of pizza styles, circular or rectangular-shaped. The city has seen restaurants offering everything including Detroit-style pizza and the classic Chicago deep-dish version. And that is not to mention the Sicilian pie, another rectangular style, that has been a mainstay at New York pizzerias for decades.”

“Moreover, other Roman styles are also finding their way to the city. Pinsa Lab, which opened earlier this year in Brooklyn, specializes in an crispy circular style, known as pinsa, that is said to date back to ancient times … But pizza al taglio has special appeal for a host of reasons, say fans. Some like the fanciful toppings that are often used: At Fornino, for example, the pizza al taglio comes in versions with everything from heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese to radicchio and figs.”

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Novo Oh-No: ‘New & Improved’ Doesn’t Sell

The Wall Street Journal: “Danish drug giant Novo Nordisk is living through a corporate nightmare that any CEO might recognize from business school. After the company concentrated on making essentially one product better and better—and charging more and more—customers have suddenly stopped paying for all that improvement. The established versions are, well, good enough.”

“Doctors, health-plan managers and insurers all have balked at paying for Novo Nordisk’s newest version of its insulin. Clinical trials show it works as promised in controlling diabetes and delivers significant side benefits compared with its predecessors. But for many customers, all that isn’t enough to warrant paying more—because the older drugs on the market already work pretty well, too.”

“Common, deadly ailments, such as asthma, high cholesterol and heart disease, were the focus of the pharmaceutical industry during a golden age of drug launches in the 1990s. Now, building on those advances has proven costlier and more complex, and usually results in smaller gains. Incrementally improved medicines are harder to sell at the prices needed to cover their development costs.”

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Ambient Computing: Invisible & Omnipresent

Steve Vassallo: “Slack and Airbnb—like Pinterest, Instagram and Kickstarter—are recent successes founded by designers, people who are devoted to the practice of building impeccably considerate technology. Design is the key to building the next great wave of companies.”

“I think we’re entering the age of ‘ambient computing,’ when personal technology will become invisible and omnipresent. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, the Internet of Things, and other nascent tech will fade into the background of our lives. Technology will no longer come in the form of gadgets.”

“In this new era, design will be ever more critical to how we build and use our technology. The 21st century will be the century of the designer founder, when core value for businesses is created by entrepreneurs who have a deeper, more intuitive sense for the human condition.”

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Impossible Burgers: Food is not an App

The New York Times: “One of the chief selling points of the Impossible Burger, a much ballyhooed plant-based burger patty, is its resemblance to meat, right down to the taste and beeflike ‘blood’ …. Now, its secret sauce — soy leghemoglobin, a substance found in nature in the roots of soybean plants that the company makes in its laboratory — has raised regulatory questions. Impossible Foods wants the Food and Drug Administration to confirm that the ingredient is safe to eat. But the agency has expressed concern that it has never been consumed by humans and may be an allergen.”

“Impossible Foods can still sell its burger despite the F.D.A. findings, which did not conclude that soy leghemoglobin was unsafe. The company plans to resubmit its petition to the agency.” Rachel Konrad, a spokeswoman for Impossible Foods, states: “The Impossible Burger is safe. A key ingredient of the Impossible Burger — heme — is an ancient molecule found in every living organism.”

“Impossible Foods is finding out what happens when a fast-moving venture capital business runs headlong into the staid world of government regulation. Investors like Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures have poured money into a variety of so-called alt meat companies. Silicon Valley has noble goals, applying technological solutions to address major issues like climate change, farm animal welfare and food security. But food is not an app. It is far more heavily regulated by governments and much more heavily freighted with cultural and emotional baggage.”

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Amazon’s Secret: 19 Phantom Brands

Quartz: “Amazon is selling products across a wide array of categories, using a host of brands that do not exist outside the confines of amazon.com and do not make it clear that they are Amazon-made products. Trawling through over 800 trademarks that Amazon has either been awarded or applied for through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Quartz identified 19 brands that are owned by Amazon and sell products or have product pages on amazon.com.”

The Amazon brands include: Arabella (Lingerie); Beauty Bar (Cosmetics); Denali (Tools); Franklin & Freeman (Men’s shoes); Happy Belly (Fresh food); James & Erin (Women’s clothing); Lark & Ro (Women’s clothing); Mae (Underwear); Mama Bear (Baby products); Myhabit (Consumer goods); North Eleven(Women’s clothing); NuPro (Tech accessories); Pike Street (Linen); Scout + Ro (Kid’s clothing); Single Cow Burger (Frozen food); Small Parts (Spare parts); Smart is Beautiful (Clothing); Strathwood (Furniture).

“The only indication that any of these other brands might have an affiliation with Amazon is the fact that their company pages … say that their products are ‘exclusively for Prime members.’ It’s not clear that they’re exclusive because they are Amazon products, rather than products from companies that have struck deals with Amazon … It’s possible Amazon has other brands on its site that it hasn’t yet trademarked.”

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