As August comes to an end, all eyes are on autumn. Will daily life return to a more "normal" grind, or not? What will the landscape of education look like, from the wee tots to the college students? And how about trick-or-treating? Boy, could I use a genuine vacation right about now.
While we can't help with the vacation part (sorry), we can save you some time and keep you firmly in the loop with our selection of this week's most significant industry happenings.
What Does Walmart 👀 in TikTok?
As the fate of the U.S. TikTok business saga continues, this week we learned that Walmart has teamed up with Microsoft in a bid to purchase the social media platform. While the mutual benefits of a Walmart/TikTok partnership may not at first appear totally clear—one is a big box retailer; the other is an app hallmarked by trendy dances and viral content—it makes a lot of sense when you consider that TikTok could become the next commercial frontier for the retail giant.
In the emerging category of “social commerce,” it’s apparent that Gen-Z is a force to be reckoned with in the CPG world, and TikTok is a breeding ground for products to take off and become the latest trend. From mouthwashes to coffee brands, the platform has already made more than its fair share of contributions to brands’ bottom lines. Chinese brands have already tapped into this market, which was worth $186B last year and is expected to grow by 30%. This could be a new way for brands to do business with both U.S. and Chinese consumers.
Save the 🐝s!
Billions of bees die each year because of the use of pesticides and certain farming practices prevalent in the almond-growing industry. To combat this, Kind announced a plan to source 100% of its almonds from bee-friendly farms by 2025.
One of the brand’s most common ingredients is almonds, and this is a trailblazing step for Kind, which will earn the brand the Xerces Society’s Bee Better Certified Seal. This is also a nod to consumers who want CPG companies to adopt better practices and in return, will hold more loyalty towards the brands they know are doing their part.
Manager of Sustainability and Corporate Affairs for Kind, Jenny Stanley, says, "The market for bee-friendly almonds is in its infancy and we need to grow it…. there's been a lot of great work, but we all need to go further and faster."
For some context, Häagen‐Dazs became the first major food brand to have the seal on its almond products earlier this year.
Funding & Acquisitions 💰
Sovos Brands will acquire Birch Benders, a breakfast products brand founded in 2011 that offers keto- and paleo-friendly items among other better-for-you claims.
Clio Snacks announced an $8M Series C. According to Douglas Yu of Forbes, the Greek yogurt bar brand has seen huge success since its rebrand in 2018, experiencing 100% YOY growth and introducing retail partnerships with several new distributors, including Whole Foods and Target.
Sol Cuisine raised a financing round ($10M). The manufacturer of "vegetarian, vegan, Halal, Gluten-Free and organic frozen and fresh meat alternatives" was founded in 1996 and its products are available in 4,000 doors.
Spurred by an increase in pet adoptions and DTC sales/brand adoption during the global pandemic, Aussie-based Lyka secured a $1.57M seed round for its subscription dog-food brand/service.
Stories of Growth: Black-Owned Businesses
With National Black-Owned Business Month coming to a close, take a look at these profiles of the founders of Partake Foods, A Dozen Cousins, and Iya Foods, written by from Lillianna Byington for Food Dive.
"When I started, it was around people with food allergies being able to partake, but I think there's an opportunity to create this bigger feeling of inclusivity for everyone, for women, for people of color, for people with food allergies, all just being able to come around the table and Partake, pun intended, together."
- Denise Woodard, Founder & CEO
"I know this community, I know these flavor profiles, I've been eating these dishes since I was a little kid and so I feel a certain connection and the ability to innovate and serve this part of the market in a way that other brands might not be able to."
- Ibraheem Basir, Founder & CEO
"I would say it's been a long time coming. It's something I'm insanely proud of because it just marries together the Nigerian part of me, which I'm proud of, and the U.S. part of me, which I wanted to make proud as well."
- Toyin Kolawole, Founder & CEO
Defining "Plant-Based" 🌱
Miyoko’s Creamery, Sonoma County, California-based plant-based company, can once again use certain dairy-related words to describe its products, including “butter”, “lactose free”, and “cruelty free”. In December of 2019, the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture "told Miyoko’s it needed to stop using dairy words on its packaging and marketing materials...and tak[e] down a photo on the company’s website of a woman hugging a cow," reported The San Francisco Chronicle. It argued, for one, that the claims were misleading to consumers. This week, however, a judge ruled in favor of Miyoko's, granting the company the right to use the dairy-related terminology.
The state’s failure at regulating language used by vegan brands follows in the footsteps of consumer class action lawsuits that take issue with the world “milk” being used to describe dairy alternatives like soymilk or almondmilk—judges have consistently argued that just because there is a standard definition of the word, it doesn’t mean brands can’t use it in other contexts.
The vegan meat industry has had its fair share of controversy over this as well, with an Arkansas court ruling that “meat” can be used to describe plant-based products with sufficient labeling that clarifies its true composition. As the alternative dairy and meat market continues to grow exponentially (reportedly 5x faster than total food sales for two consecutive years), it’s no wonder that there will be some growing pains along the way. Despite this, the category has only gained attention as more and more consumers search for healthier and more sustainable options, including substitutes, of their favorite animal products.
In this vein, Canadian brand Very Good Butchers, which produces “meat” from a variety of plant-based sources, is expanding its distribution to the U.S., reports Ashlen Weddington in The Spoon. The company went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange in May of 2019, becoming only the second plant-based meat company to IPO, after Beyond Meat. While it hasn’t been announced when exactly the expansion will happen, Very Good Butchers recently added three logistics partners to offer three-day shipping throughout Canada and the U.S.
Good Stuff, Delivered 🦊
Foxtrot—a brick-and-mortar/DTC combo that secured $17M in funding in February to re-imagine the corner store concept—launched a campaign called “Good Stuff Delivered,” which puts the small stuff that "makes each day special" at the forefront. Started in 2013, founder and CEO Michael LaVitola created it with the intention of making it a one-stop-shop for consumers.
The Chicago-based chain serves to blend the physical retail experience with eCommerce, offering in-person grocery shopping and dining with the option to have these same products delivered right to your door. TechCruch describes its selection as “an impressive mix of local, emerging and heritage brands all under one roof,” and it truly takes “any way you want it” to a new level. The campaign will surprise customers with “random acts of fun,” like gift cards or a free cup of coffee, and demonstrates the personal touch the small grocers can offer that big retailers may have trouble matching.
Engineering Yum 😋
San Francisco-based Dandelion Chocolate, a "bean-to-bar chocolate factory," is putting a twist on a classic baking staple: the chocolate chip. Tesla engineer Remy Labesque reimagined the sweet for the brand, changing its shape to a faceted square, supposedly improving how it melts and sits on the tongue.
The revamp has gotten a lot of attention, mostly for the pleasing aesthetic of the new shape, and really highlights how much of a role visuals can play in consumer reception—who doesn’t love when something looks as good as it tastes? And the flat faces of the chocolate are giving us serious Dream Pops vibes.
Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle 💚
Spudsy, a female-owned startup based in California, has been chosen as the recipient of the $100,000 grant from PepsiCo’s North America Greenhouse Accelerator Program, reports Gill Hyslop in Bakery and Snacks. The brand upcycles sweet potatoes to produce vegan, allergen-free puff snacks. The brand will use the money to grow their retail footprint and continue to expand their offerings, which they’ve already seen huge promise from. Spudsy is one of the latest brands committed to upcycling for the good of the planet.