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Sunday, August 4, 2013

The 25 Most Innovative Consumer And Retail Brands 08-05

The 25 Most Innovative Consumer And Retail Brands

Our objective in creating the CircleUp25 was to honor 25 companies that are starting to change the way we live our lives—companies that influence what we eat, what we wear, and what we use every day of our lives. They are companies that lead us to decide where and how we shop. They are the most innovative consumer and retail brands that exist.  In short, they are innovative businesses that go far beyond our local farmers’ markets—they are re-inventing industries. In an effort to avoid any appearance of partiality, as mentioned in our prior post announcing the CircleUp25, we have excluded from consideration any company that has worked with our equity crowd funding site in an official capacity.
So what did we do to select the top 25 most innovative consumer and retail companies?  We first spoke to experts in the field, including some of the best private equity firms in the world who focus on consumer and retail.  Then we talked with major strategics, polling internal innovation teams at the most successful public consumer and retail companies. We also talked with entrepreneurs, third-party data providers and industry participants. From our panel of experts we received over 200 nominations. Then we also wanted to hear from consumers.  We received almost two thousand nominations from consumers and fans through Facebook and Twitter (#CircleUp25).
DisclosureThrough Encore Consumer Capital, I am an investor in Zuke’s. Despite that, it is on this list because industry experts and fans nominated it independently.
Here are the honorees, in no particular order. Each company is innovative in its own way.
David’s Tea Inc., Montreal, Quebec
  • Why? For reminding us why tea is the most popular prepared beverage in the world. And for making tradition even more popular, today.
  • Who Did It? David Segal, a tea-loving entrepreneur, and his cousin Herschel Segal, a Canadian retail pioneer.
  • What They Have Built:  The first David’s Tea retail store opened in 2008. David’s Tea opened its 100th store in 2012 and now sells more than 150 different teas.
  • Big Backers: David’s Tea investors include The Highland Consumer Fund and Chip Wilson, the founder and former CEO of Lululemon Athletica.
The Experts Agree: David’s Tea won the 2012 Tea Blogger’s Choice Awards in the Herb Blend and Single Herb categories.
Tieks by Gavrieli, Los Angeles, CA
  • Why? For reinventing the ballet flat with their high-quality portable and fashionable shoes.
  • Who Did It? Kfir Gavrieli, Dikla Gavrieli, Elram Gavrieli and Dean Unatin.
  • What They Have Built: Ballet flats that land as beautifully as they fly.
  • Reinvented: Making a better ballet flat required reinventing the shoe-making process. Each pair of Tieks is handmade from carefully selected leather. In total, the process takes 3 days and over 150 steps.
Who Has Noticed? Tieks’ shoes have been featured on Oprah’s O! List. Travel & Leisure touts them as the leading travel shoe.
Warby Parker, New York, NY
  • Why? For transforming the designer eyewear market.
  • Who Did It? Wharton MBA classmates Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, and Jeffrey Raider
  • What They Have Built: In addition to a booming online business, Warby Parker opened six new showrooms in 2012.
  • Online Optics: Before Warby Parker launched, it was estimated that less than 1% of eyeglasses were being sold online. Warby Parker, by allowing customers to try on glasses before purchasing them, brought the benefits of the in-store shopping experience onto the internet and into customers’ homes.
Phone a Friend: 50% of people who visit the company’s website heard about Warby Parker from a friend.  In consumer there are few better measures of success than referrals.
Back to the Roots, Berkeley, CA
  • Why? For their revolutionary approach to sustainable, grow-at-home products.
  • Who Did It? Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009.
  • What They Have Built: Back to the Roots mushroom kits are sold in 1,200+ retailers nationwide. In 2012 the company started offering The Aqua Farm, a self-cleaning fish tank that also grows plants.
  • By The Numbers: In 2011, Back to the Roots helped consumers grow 250,000 lbs. of fresh mushrooms.
Who Has Noticed?  In 2010, the founders were named among BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs. In 2012 the company received the industry’s most coveted honor as a sofiTM Gold Winner. It was also voted a Top 10 Green Company by GreenDeals.
Beyond Meat, Inc., Manhattan Beach, CA
  • Why? For developing the first plant protein that looks, feels, tastes and acts like meat.
  • Who Did It? Founder Ethan Brown, inspired by his dad’s dairy farm, has focused on clean energy while collaborating extensively with food scientists to develop his products.
  • What They Have Built: Founded in 2009, Beyond Meat’s first product, Chicken-Free Strips, was rolled out in Whole Foods Market in 2012. The company now offers a wide variety of products distributed nationally. They also recently entered into a partnership with the Tropical Smoothie Café.
  • Thinking Big: With a high-quality product, Beyond Meat is positioned to expand beyond the vegetarian and health food markets in which fake meat products have traditionally appeared. The founders are pushing to have the products sold in butcher cases worldwide.
Making a Splash: Beyond Meat has been named one of CNN Tech’s 10 Startups to Watch, was a 2012 Finalist for the INDEX Design to Improve Life Award and was VegNews Magazine’s 2012 Rookie of the Year
Boa Technology Inc., Denver, CO
  • Why? For creating the Boa Closure System.
  • Who Did It? Founder Gary Hammerslag, after a Colorado winter exposed him to the shortcomings of traditional laces on snowboard boots and hockey skates.
  • What They Have Built: There are an estimated 25 million Boa-powered products worldwide, spanning the sport, medical and work categories.
  • Feet First: Boa expanded its applications beyond footwear in the late 2000s and is now featured in products like medical braces and high-performance gloves.
  • The Athlete’s Foot: 70+ Tour de France riders have worn Boa products. Renowned endurance athlete Dean Karnazes completed 50 marathons in 50 days wearing only Boa. The Boa Snowboard Team features some of the sport’s youngest stars rocking the Boa Closure System.
Chobani, Inc., New Berlin, NY
  • Why? For making great tasting, high-quality, natural yogurt.
  • Who Did It? Cheesemaker Hamdi Ulukaya, following his instincts after stumbling upon an ad for a recently-closed yogurt plant.
  • What They Have Built: In five years, Ulukaya turned a $1 million Small Business Association loan into a company with $1 billion in annual revenue.
  • At the Top: Chobani is America’s #1 Greek Yogurt and controls 47% of the US Greek Yogurt market with more than twice the market share of the Number 2 brand.
Awards Abound: Chobani won the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Entrepreneurial Success of the Year Award for 2012 and Rabobank’s, 2012 North America Innovation in Leadership award. Ulukaya was a 2009 Forbes 40 Under 40 Honoree and was recently named Ernst & Young’s 2013 World Entrepreneur of the Year.
Dollar Shave Club Inc.,Santa Monica, CA
  • Why? For saving time and money with their subscription-based razors and bathroom products.
  • Who Did It? Mark Levine and Michael Dubin, frustrated with the existing options.
  • What They Have Built: A base of 200,000+ paying customers that should produce more than $10 million in sales, a year after launching.
  • What is Next? Expansion into additional men’s grooming products. Aside from razors, Dollar Shave Club currently offers shave butter and moist wipes.
Audacious Advertisers: 12,000 people reportedly signed up for the service within 48 hours of the company’s release of “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” on YouTube. The video has been viewed over 10 million times and won Best Out-of-Nowhere Video Campaign at the 2012 AdAge Viral Video Awards.
KeVita® Inc., Ventura, CA
  • Why? For providing health-seeking consumers with a delicious, vitalizing, probiotic drink.
  • Who Did It? Bill Moses and Chakra Earthsong Levy
  • What They Have Built: KeVita’s organic, non-GMO, gluten free, vegan sparkling probiotic drinks are available in more than 3,500 stores nationwide.
  • Probiotic Punch: Each of the company’s ten flavors has more probiotics than kombucha or yogurt.
  • Just The Beginning: At the end of 2012, KeVita’s was on track to grow its revenue 100% on a year over year basis including 35% year over year same store sales growth.
KIND LLC, New York, NY
  • Why? For their all-natural, whole nut and fruit bars made from ingredients you can seeand pronounce.
  • Who Did It? Social entrepreneur Daniel Lubetzky, who was one of TIME Magazine’s 2009 25 Responsibility Pioneers and has been named one of BusinessWeek’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs.
  • What They Have Built: Kind’s retail distribution has grown from 1,000 doors in 2004 to 80,000 doors in 2013.
  • Perfecting Packaging: Kind’s clear packaging, exposing whole, natural ingredients helped it disrupt the industry when it first appeared on shelves in 2004.
Awarded: KIND has won numerous prestigious awards from experts in health, food and social responsibility.
Krave Pure Foods, Inc., Sonoma, CA
  • Why? For making beef jerky good. Finally.  Really good.
  • Who Did it? Jonathan Sebastiani, one of a long line of wine makers, while training for a marathon.
  • What They Have Built: Krave started as a business plan for one of Sebastiani’s MBA classes. Today, Krave is sold in more than 6,000 retail outlets nationwide.
What is Next? In 2012, Sebastiani predicted that 2013 sales would top $10 million. He also reported that the company is experimenting with other products.
Philz Coffee Inc., San Francisco, CA
  • Why? For being the original one-cup-at-a-time brewer. 
  • Who Did It? Phil Jaber experimented with coffee blends for 25 years before offering single-serving coffee in his  corner grocery store.
  • What They Have Built: Following the success of its original location (Phil stopped selling groceries to focus on coffee), Philz’s quickly expanded and now operates 13 stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  •  What Is next? Philz’s recently secured an eight-figure investment from Summit Partners to fuel expansion outside of the Bay Area.
  • On Not Seeking Space: Phil’s son Jacob, the company’s CEO, reports never having approached landlords when seeking space for retail outlets. They all come to him.
  • Friended By Facebook: In 2011, Philz was invited to open an outlet on Facebook’s corporate campus. Philz’s beans are featured in Whole Foods and distributed to Google’s cafeterias.
Quinn Foods, LLC, Woburn, MA
  • Why? For cleaning up microwavable popcorn, inside and out. 
  • Who Did It? Coulter and Kristy Lewis, looking for a better alternative for their son, Quinn.
  • What They Have Built: Quinn’s started from the outside by creating a bag that was grease-proof, compostable and free of chemical coatings. Then they filled them with better-for-you, better-tasting microwavable popcorn.
  • Who Has Noticed? Prevention Magazine just listed Quinn in their 100 Cleanest Packaged Foods Awards, and the popcorn was one of Natural Food Merchandiser’s 2012 Favorite Food and Beverage Products.
Popping Up Everywhere: Quinn popcorn offers 7 flavors and is sold in hundreds of stores nationwide.

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