Most In­no­va­tive Com­pa­nies

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The lat­est from Unilever, Chipo­tle, We­work, and more.

Unilever

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.

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