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Plant-Based Indulgences and Celebrity Water: CPG News, Week of Jan 25-29

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January 29, 2021
by Veronica Drake
7 Minutes

Good Reads

A moral monopoly: The difference between supplier-performance management and bullying by Kim van der Weerd, Supply Chain Dive

Updating Machine Learning Models to Adapt to Demand Shifts by Liudmyla Taranenko, Institute of Business Forecasting & Planning 

Super Bowl's status as marketing bellwether diminished as brands play it safe by Peter Adams, Marketing Dive 

Investments & Acquisitions

The founders of healthy snack startup Quevos appeared on Shark Tank to pitch their already-successful egg white crisps to its panel of investors, hoping to sell an equity stake in exchange for capital and the mentorship of one of the industry moguls. Daniel Lubetzky, founder of Kind Snacks and guest judge this week, ended up making a deal with the pair that the founders say will provide invaluable experience as they seek to expand the brand. 

Premium water brand Flow, which has a multitude of celebrity investors, including Post Malone and Shawn Mendes, announced plans to go public this week. 

UPS will sell UPS Freight to Canada-based transportation and logistics company TFI for $800 million, it was announced this week.

Hippeas, a chickpea-based snack brand, raised $50 million, which will be used to expand production and brand innovation and will be led by the company’s new CFO, Greg Buscher.

New Products & Partnerships

Eat Just will release sous vide bites using its plant-based Just Egg substitute, expected to hit limited store shelves in March.

RxBar announced the launch of a line of oat packets, an answer to consumers who enjoy their oat cups but want to buy products in bulk to avoid grocery store trips.

Endangered Species Chocolate has released a line of three dark chocolate bars in time for Valentine’s Day, with a portion of each sale going towards the brand’s contribution to wildlife conservation.

PepsiCo and Beyond Meat have teamed up to create The PLANeT Partnership, a joint venture that will use Beyond Meat’s plant-based technology and PepsiCo’s marketing capabilities to create lines of plant-based snacks and beverages. 

Diversifying ecommerce

Walmart had a major year for its 2020 ecommerce sales, which grew 73% in Q3. But even that jump could not compare to the growth Walmart Marketplace, its third-party e-Comm platform, experienced: it finished 2020 with nearly 70,000 sellers, double its number in 2019. The growth was bolstered by a partnership with Shopify, which made it easier for its customers to sell with Walmart, and took on high profile sellers like thredUp, which started using the marketplace last year. But these milestones have revealed some flaws in the Walmart Marketplace system that keeps it significantly behind its greatest competitors: Amazon Marketplace

Amazon’s e-Comm platform includes over 2.4 million sellers, dwarfing Walmart Marketplace’s 70,000, and according to users of both, holds some advantages over Walmart’s version. One of Walmart’s major obstacles has been bringing on sellers due to its “clunky” seller system. “As a seller, you really should be more established, more experienced, have a team to handle Walmart, because it’s not as intuitive as Amazon,” says Zentail’s marketing director, Pauline Shiu. The application process is significantly lengthier, and while this is attributed to an overall more careful and thorough vetting process, vendors share a common complaint that they’re slow to get a response to their applications to sell on the platform. 

Yet despite its challenges, the potential remains for Walmart to outpace Amazon if it’s able to revamp its system to improve on the drawbacks of Amazon, including a difficult-to-reach support team. However, Shiu says, what the world of e-Comm marketplaces really needs is diversity.  “Everyone is trying to copy Amazon, but there hasn’t been a lot of differentiation and setting marketplaces apart yet.” Outside of some technical differences, Amazon and Walmart’s marketplaces function very similarly, and a spot as an ecommerce marketplaces innovator is still up for the taking.

Augmented Warehouse Reality

A study published in The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology has found that inexperienced warehouse pickers complete orders an average of 37% faster when using augmented reality tools rather than paper lists. The experiment, which consisted of inexperienced workers, also noted a decrease in picking error when using the AR tool. However, the same test found that experienced workers performed better with paper lists, potentially because of their firmer grasp on the picking environment and process. 

Augmented reality tools have long been viewed as the future of warehouse environments, and a 2019 report found that 93% of participants said they expect to have adopted wearable computing devices by 2028. As technology develops, the prices of such devices are expected to drop, giving better chances that companies will make the investment to add to their workplaces. The findings of new studies gives support to the idea that new workers could use AR technology to help train faster, cutting down the time it takes to learn the picking process and simultaneously reduce the number of errors. In the era of Covid-19, there have also been cases where technology like Google smart glasses is used to ensure that workers are socially distancing, alerting them if they are too close to another person. 

#HereToBeHeard

Mars Inc. has created a crowdsourced campaign that aims to ask women what changes need to be made in order for more women to reach their full potential. The question refers to inequalities in the world of business that contribute to fewer women in executive positions, a gender pay gap, and cases of casual discrimination that many women face during their careers. The #HereToBeHeard campaign targets women across race, age, religion, and ability lines, whose responses will be used to influence the actions that Mars takes to create a better working environment. The submissions will be analyzed by the Oxford Future of Marketing Initiative, and celebrity partners including Tamera Mowry-Housley and Helen Wu are helping start the conversation. The campaign is a continuation of previous efforts that Mars has made to address gender-based inequalities, and contributes to their Full-Potential platform they launched last year that was made to strengthen their progress. 

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