Most Innovative Companies
The latest from Unilever, Chipotle, Wework, and more.
In April, consumer-goods giant Unilever, the parent company of more than 80 food brands including Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s, moved further into the fast-growing natural-foods market with its reported $140 million acquisition of condiment maker Sir Kensington’s. Founded in 2010, the startup is known for its artisanal, non-gmo ketchups, mustards, and mayonnaises; its vegan Fabanaise swaps eggs for aquafaba, the liquid left over after cooking chickpeas. With products in only 6,000 stores nationwide, Sir Kensington’s is minuscule compared to Hellmann’s, America’s No. 1 mayo brand. But the buy comes as Unilever is looking for ways to recapture consumers’ attention—and revitalize its portfolio—after a sales slowdown that has spurred it to consider selling off some of its food brands.
“There is an energy and spirit that comes with a small company like Sir Kensington’s,” says Matthew Mccarthy, VP of foods at Unilever North America. Unilever has made a recent habit of acquiring hit consumer brands and drawing from their success, especially in its personal-care division. In the past few years, it has pulled in a string of buzzy companies, including the Jennifer Aniston– approved Living Proof hair-care line, natural-skin-care brand Ren, and Dollar Shave Club, which the company bought for $1 billion last July. Unilever has been slower in the food space. Sir Kensington’s, with its healthy condiments and its foodie appeal, could be the catalyst for faster growth in the middle aisles of the grocery store. “Tastes are changing in food,” says Sir Kensington’s cofounder Mark Ramadan. “We speak to a new generation of eater.” —Claire Dodson MILESTONES Unilever is taking a leap into the meal-kit space with an investment in Sun Basket, which deals in organic food. CHALLENGES Just a few months ago, Kraft Heinz tried to acquire Unilever—a sign of Unilever’s vulnerability due to slow sales growth. BUZZ Fitbit MILESTONES In a bid to engage users when they’re not working out, Fitbit recently added Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights to its menu of features. The tools use heart-rate and motion detectors to track sleep quality, and they compare users’ stats against the company’s database. CHALLENGES The new Apple Watch— with its Nike Run Club integration—is now gaining momentum among the athletic set. BUZZ Tumblr MILESTONES Microblogging pioneer Tumblr is starting to branch out: In April, it launched a stand-alone app, called Cabana, that lets groups of people cowatch—and enjoy each others’ reactions to—youtube videos. CHALLENGES Tumblr has struggled to keep up with the pace of user growth set by more popular competitors like Pinterest and Instagram. BUZZ Frank + Oak MILESTONES After moving into women’s wear last fall, direct-to-consumer fashion brand Frank + Oak has released its first line of women’s shoes, which emphasize premium materials at affordable prices. CHALLENGES Faced with increasing competition in luxury basics (Everlane, Aritzia), Frank + Oak launched a $79-a-month subscription service that aims to draw in shoppers by letting them pick from a personalized list. BUZZ
Unilever was attracted to Sir Kensington’s for its all-natural approach to condiments.