Direct Disruption: The Tide Wash Club

The Wall Street Journal: “Blindsided by the success of the upstart Dollar Shave Club, an online subscription service that chipped away at the dominance of Gillette razors, P&G executives say they are focusing not only on what consumers buy but on how they buy … P&G is experimenting with … the Tide Wash Club, an online subscription service for the dissolvable Tide Pods capsules that are the company’s highest-priced laundry detergent. The company offers free shipping at regular intervals.”

“Another new offering: Tide Spin, an undertaking P&G is calling the ‘uberization of laundry,’ in which customers in parts of Chicago can use a smartphone app to order laundry pickup and delivery from Tide-branded couriers. With the ventures, P&G is delving deeper into the business of connecting consumers directly with the products it makes, especially a new generation less loyal to the company’s big brands.”

“Privately, P&G executives acknowledge the company was caught off guard by the success of Dollar Shave Club, which started in 2011 and says it now has 3.2 million subscribers. ‘It was probably on the radar but we weren’t necessarily having the right conversation around what might disrupt us,’ said a person familiar with the company’s thinking.”

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When Labels Say … They Really Mean …

The Wall Street Journal: “Government regulators forbid ouright dishonesty, but labels with narrowly defined, cleverly deployed or unregulated buzzwords can confound shoppers trying to figure out what’s what.” For example: “‘Made with’ often means ‘made with very little,’” said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Many consumers assume it means made only of whole grain. That’s simply not true.”

“Cage-free: Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are confined in small, wire cages that measure 67 to 86 square inches per hen … Cage-free birds, on the other hand, are allowed to roam in a room or open area—but they are not guaranteed access to the outdoors. Free range: These chickens … do have outdoor access, although producers may provide minimal outdoor space or use screened-in porches with floors made of concrete, dirt or grass to provide the access.”

“Hormones aren’t allowed in poultry or hogs … Nonetheless, some producers label those products ‘no hormones added’ … Natural: This refers to the preparation of a product, not how a plant or animal was raised, and the label is supposed to include a statement explaining what it means … ‘Free’ means there is less than 0.5 gram per serving of a nutrient that has a daily value … ‘Low’ means there are 3 grams or less per serving … And ‘reduced’ means there is at least 25% less of the nutrient compared with another food.”

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LaCroix: Seltzer as Lifestyle Brand

Vox: “LaCroix isn’t the only brand to benefit from the sparkling water boom. But it’s the one that’s risen to the coveted status of lifestyle brand … The secret behind LaCroix’s rise is a mix of old-fashioned business strategy and cutting-edge social marketing. When Americans wanted carbonated water, LaCroix was positioned to give them them fizzy water. Then, sometimes by accident, LaCroix developed fans among mommy bloggers, Paleo eaters, and Los Angeles writers who together pushed LaCroix into the zeitgeist.”

“About five years ago, LaCroix spotted an opportunity. The downfall of soda was creating a craving for sparkling water … Dieters kicking soda and alcohol were among the first LaCroix devotees, happy to find something with a little more flavor … First came coconut, followed apricot, mango, and tangerine … Offering 20 flavors gives LaCroix the ability to profit from ubiquity while keeping the cachet of scarcity. Most stores don’t carry every flavor, so stocking up on a favorite can require some persistence.”

“LaCroix has become more than just a popular sparkling water. It’s become part of the story people tell about who they are. The internet bursts with ways for LaCroix devotees … to declare their loyalty. You can buy a T-shirt for $25 that says … LACROIXS OVER BOYS … This is the crux of LaCroix’s success: People will spend far more than a case of its cans cost to tell the world how much they love LaCroix … LaCroix has populated its own Instagram with photos taken by its followers — a cascade of pretty, laughing people; stacks of pastel LaCroix cases; and gorgeous, minimalist still lifes with artfully placed seltzer cans.”

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FDA Re-Designs Nutritional Label

Gizmodo: “The FDA just released its first major change to its nutritional labels in over twenty years … The deadline for the change is July 26, 2018. But you should start seeing the new labels much earlier, as manufacturers start to make the switch.” The new label is on the right.

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Fashionably Moo: The Rise of the Microdairy

“Add milk to the long list of traditional foods that are being rediscovered by young entrepreneurs and reintroduced in small-batch — and often high-priced — form,” reports The New York Times. “As historically low milk prices leave many mom-and-pop farmers struggling, some are choosing to ride the wave of the nation’s new food awareness … bottling their own milk (and ice cream and yogurt) and selling it directly to customers. And they are heralding the various ways it may be different from conventional milk — whether unhomogenized, organic, from grass-fed cows or locally produced.”

“Now many restaurant menus cite the provenance of their dairy products in the same way they boast of grass-fed rib-eyes and hydroponic tomatoes. And consumers are willing to spend more for boutique milk at farmers’ markets and upscale grocers … Manhattan Milk, a small distributor in New York City, evokes the days of the milkman, delivering glass bottles of grass-fed, organic milk from dairies in the region to doorsteps as far away as Greenwich, Conn … Customers of 1871 Dairy, in Wisconsin, “want more than the word organic slapped on a label; they want the satisfaction of knowing the milk was made close to home, in small batches rather than industrial vats.”

“Customers want to learn the story behind the food to see if it’s the values they hold,” says Joe Miller, the marketing director at Trickling Springs Creamery, a small dairy in Chambersburg, Pa. “The more you open the door for them to see behind the scenes, the more comfortable they feel with your product.”

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Chemical Reaction: Hain Celestial Reformulates

The Wall Street Journal: “Hain Celestial Group Inc., like upstart Honest Company Inc., has long said its products have no ‘harsh chemicals’ such as sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, that could irritate some people’s skin. Instead, some of their products use an ingredient called sodium coco sulfate, which the companies say is a milder cleaning agent.” However, The Wall Street Journal commissioned tests, and found that “sodium coco sulfate is a blend of cleaning agents that contains roughly 50% SLS … Honest disputed the test results for its detergent. Hain Celestial said last week that Earth’s Best ‘does not add’ SLS to its products but that the company was changing its labels to increase transparency.”

“Hain Celestial uses sodium coco sulfate in several Earth’s Best baby-care products, some Alba Botanica shampoos and a facial scrub, and some of its Jason shampoos and body washes. Their containers say they have no SLS … Products with the new labels are expected to hit store shelves by this summer, and will gradually replace products with the existing labels.”

“Honest, which also sells diapers and other consumer products, has disputed the test results and says its products don’t contain SLS … Honest disagreed with the methods used by the Journal’s labs and said its own testing found no SLS in its detergent. Honest also said it relied on assurances from its suppliers that there was no SLS in the product … During the Journal’s reporting, Honest made changes to the wording on its website … It now says the products are “Honestly made without” SLS and other ingredients it has banned. Honest said it plans to change its product labels to match the wording on its website but has no plans to reformulate its detergent.”

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Introducing the Meat-O-Mat!

The Wall Street Journal: “Attached to a laboratory-like plant in this upstate community is a neon-lit vending machine dubbed the Meat-O-Mat, where customers can buy locally raised meat whenever they like. If Joshua Applestone has his way, carnivores will flock to it the way that banking customers visit the ATM. His invention is stocked with pork chops, dry-aged burger patties, bratwurst meatballs and his beloved pork roll, a deli meat native to New Jersey. Customers swipe their credit cards, push a button, slide the door open and retrieve their hormone- and antibiotic-free selection.”

“Mr. Applestone and his partners at Applestone Meat Co., the attached plant, are attempting to develop a new, meat-centric business model. For the past two years, they have been exploring ways of making high-quality cuts available at lower prices by slashing labor costs and considering offbeat distribution methods like the Meat-O-Mat. ‘We’re going for a highway-roadside-attraction type of approach,’ said Samantha Gloffke, the company’s general manager and a part owner. ‘The goal is to make sustainability really exciting.'”

Mr. Applestone envisions them stationed at supermarkets, football stadiums and picnic sites, places where you might welcome the convenience of buying something to toss on the grill. ‘Think about it at any music festival,’ he said. ‘Anywhere someone brings a cooler, you no longer have to bring fresh meat. How much is peace of mind worth?'”

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Plants or Petroleum: The ‘Natural’ Difference Isn’t Clear

The Wall Street Journal: “Many retailers and consumer products companies classify their products as natural if some of their ingredients were originally sourced from plant-based materials. But the top ingredients in many natural or ‘green’ consumer goods aren’t that different from mainstream products, whose ingredients often come from petroleum-based sources … The main ingredients in Tom’s of Maine Simply White toothpaste, for instance—including sodium fluoride, hydrated silica, sorbitol and sodium lauryl sulfate—are also in some types of Colgate toothpaste. Tom’s of Maine, which says all its ingredients ‘originate from nature,’ is owned by Colgate-Palmolive Co.”

“Whole Foods Markets Inc. last fall started selling a new brand of laundry detergent called Nature’s Power, whose green bottle claims the product is made ‘with plant-derived soaps.’ Its top active ingredient, a commonly used cleaning agent called sodium laureth sulfate, is found in plenty of its mainstream peers, including Arm & Hammer, which like Nature’s Power is made by Church & Dwight Co. Sodium laureth sulfate can be produced from coconut oil, palm oil or petroleum. ‘It is the same chemical compound, regardless of what it’s derived from,’ says Clarence Miller, a professor emeritus of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University in Houston.”

“While the Food and Drug Administration regulates foods and personal-care products and requires detailed ingredient labeling, it isn’t clear who is checking the labels of household products or the contents of bottles … The use of term “organic” is more closely regulated. Makers of household cleaners that label their products organic must have their ingredients certified by an independent body that follows guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

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Why Is Laundry Detergent So Difficult To Measure?

The Washington Post: “The measuring caps on liquid laundry detergent containers are universally difficult to read, because of faint markings that blend in with the plastic cups. Without perfect lighting conditions and sharp vision, this has left many consumers squinting to see where the line is that they should fill to. And the related instructions are often vague … While impossible to pinpoint exactly how much detergent is wasted, experts say a significant portion of the industry’s revenues come from excess use of detergent that consumers didn’t need to use to clean their clothes.”

“Experts say a good measuring cap is doable — all that’s needed is a contrasting color to mark the lines consumers should fill to … Yet laundry detergent companies stick with a design that has its roots in the 1930s, when a patent was issued for a measuring top for containers … For the foreseeable future, consumers struggling to find the perfect detergent dose for their laundry will have to keep making do.”

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