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The Brief
Published: 4 Dec 2018

Grocer Natoora Takes Radical Seasonality to the High Street

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Upscale British grocer Natoora, which supplies “environmentally responsible” fruit and vegetables to almost 1,000 restaurant partners, is directing its focus on seasonality towards a direct-to-consumer retail concept – an upmarket grocery boutique in west London that solely sells seasonal produce.

Disrupting the non-natural homogeneity of fruit and veg found in mainstream supermarkets, Natoora’s new retail space on Fulham Road in the affluent Chelsea district offers a rotating assortment of fresh, exclusively seasonal products. It clearly targets west London’s wealthy residents – a demographic with an appetite for sustainably sourced items of the variety used by the capital’s influential chefs (many of whom are Natoora’s wholesale clients). It’s the third standalone store for the brand; other locations include Sloane Square and Chiswick.

Affirming its deviation from traditional supermarkets, all the fruit and vegetables are tastefully merchandised on warmly lit concrete and timber terrazzo terraced shelves, with no plastic packaging.

Beyond only selling in-season produce, Natoora also sorts goods according to three seasonal stages (early, peak and late), meaning goods move between the respective display categories. Determined to re-educate consumers accustomed to purchasing based on a product’s cosmetic appearance (often unaware of what ripe produce should really taste and look like), the store encourages consumers to sample. The current ‘peak’ autumn selection includes pomegranates from Sicily and pumpkins from Lombardy (Italy), as well as collard greens from Cornwall (England).

Natoora also emphasises the transparency of its supply chain. Working with a curated global network of small-scale growers, which it calls craftsmen, it displays the seed, soil and source of everything it sells. Pushing the power of provenance, each grower is spotlit via documentary-style content on its website and product origin maps in-store.

The space was designed by Argentinian architect Noé Golomb and furnished by London-based cabinet makers FincH.

See also Future Supermarket Strategies and Boom of the Boutique Grocery Store.

Published: 10 Aug 2018

Biodegradable Coffee Cups Grown from Fruit

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HyO Cups by Crème Studio

As big brands and retailers pledge against plastic, designers and researchers are persisting with sustainable and plant-based alternatives for single-use items. Brooklyn design studio Crème has turned to gourds (fleshy fruits with hard skin) to create an environmentally friendly solution to disposable coffee cups.

While existing paper versions are typically lined with polyethylene and cannot be recycled or composted, meaning excessive numbers end up in landfill, the HyO-Cups are 100% organic and biodegradable.

The studio looked to gourd containers for inspiration, which can be found all over the world. Traditionally used in many cultures as containers for liquids or medicines, they are often grown in earthen moulds to create different shapes and sizes. Once dried out, the fruit’s strong outer skin and fibrous inner flesh become watertight. 

To make a standardised vessel in the same vein, Crème developed custom 3D-printed moulds. The fruit is then grown inside, taking on the shape of a stackable, faceted cup or flask.

The production process currently takes around six months – from planting the fruit to drying out the shells; but the team claims the cups can be manufactured on a mass scale. It hopes that scaling up production and growing the gourds in a controlled, indoor environment will produce a more efficient and plentiful crop.

Laboratory-grown materials and solutions to our depleting sources is an important theme in our S/S 20 Materials Focus story Augmented Space. See Edible Kombucha Packaging and Crab Shells & Cellulose Offer Promising Plastic Alternative for further sustainable alternatives.

Published: 18 Jun 2018

Ben & Jerry’s Tax Empowers Shoppers to Offset Carbon Impact

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Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about their social and environmental impact, and are on the lookout for brands that are active in those areas. To support its sustainability credentials, US ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s uses blockchain to enable fans to offset their carbon impact by paying an extra penny at the till.

Ben & Jerry’s has collaborated with Maltese non-profit organisation Poseidon Foundation on an ice-cream parlour spot in London. Using blockchain tech, the brand is able to calculate the environmental impact of producing and purchasing a cone of ice cream, and gives consumers the opportunity to rebalance their footprint and actively support action on climate change by buying carbon credits. Ben & Jerry’s has pledged to buy credits for each cone and invites consumers to do so too – when paying at the checkout, the cashier asks consumers if they’d like to add an extra penny to their balance.

Carbon credits are tradable tokens linked to projects which offset the greenhouse gases created by organisations and are usually only sold in massive quantities to corporations. Poseidon splits them up into micro transactions, making them accessible to consumers. Ben & Jerry’s credits are used to support a forestry conservation project at the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru. Since opening in May, the ice-cream parlour initiative has been able to protect more than 1,000 trees – equivalent to an area the size of 77 tennis courts.

Our reports Retail's Activist Brands and Reframing Sustainability discuss how other brands are supporting action on climate change or educating consumers on conscious consumption.

Published: 30 May 2018

Virgin Fitness Class Features CPR Training

Virgin Active has launched a new fitness class for its gym members in Thailand called CPRobic, which combines cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training with an intensive workout.

CPRobic teaches participants hands-only CPR movements that could prove life-saving in an emergency, while helping them exercise. Just 15 minutes of CPRobic can burn up to 165 calories and when combined with a Bosu fitness training ball, participants can burn up to 400 calories in 45 minutes. The class was added in March 2018 and is taught by CPR-certified trainers.

Virgin created the class after discovering only 6% of patients who require on-the-spot CPR in Thailand receive it before being taken to hospital, as most people have never had CPR training. Less than 1% of the population has a gym membership (IHRSA, 2017), while in countries like the UK, this rate is as high as 15% (LeisureDB, 2017). In order to attract customers, gyms in the region need to market innovative, multipurpose classes to entice more people to try them.

For more on the latest innovations in the fitness and active landscape, see our Active Lives Macro Trend and coverage of Elevate 2018.

Published: 12 Mar 2018

Brand Stretch: How Food Enriches the Shopping Experience

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L'Occitane en Provence Paris

For non-food retailers, the addition of a café or restaurant boosts dwell time and can provide creative inspiration. We sum up the latest hybrid stores, Instagram-ready culinary hotspots, and concepts using food as design cues.

Besides encouraging customers to linger in a shop, the addition of a food offer directly entices experience-hungry young consumers. Global luxury food and drinks sales grew 6% in 2017 from 2016, reaching $120bn (Bain & Co, 2017).

Brand Stretch

  • Instagrammable Breakfast at Tiffany’s: US jewellery brand Tiffany & Co. has opened a café in its New York flagship inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the classic 1960s movie starring Audrey Hepburn. The Blue Box Café serves classic American breakfasts and high tea. The space entices with Instagram-friendly décor, featuring leather banquettes, chairs, walls and plates all in turquoise. Located on the fourth floor, the café operates during regular store hours.
  • Sweet Senses: French beauty brand L'Occitane en Provence’s latest sensory-focused flagship stores in Paris and London feature a patisserie. Overseen by French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, famous for his experimental flavour combinations, both stores sell macaroon collections referencing natural fragrance ingredients such as lavender. Each location also has a dessert bar showcasing live pastry-making demonstrations, as well as a colourful lounge area with ample seating.

For more on the power of brand extensions, see Retail’s Elastic Brands: Stretch & Diversify.

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Contextual Shopping

  • Haute Cuisine: Italian luxury brand Gucci has opened a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Florence, Italy. Forming part of its museum experience Gucci Garden, which encompasses a store, cinema and gallery space (see blog), it’s run by noted chef Massimo Bottura. The 50-seat space features lemon green walls and algae-coloured velvet seating and serves upscale versions of regional dishes. Diners can buy the plates and cutlery used in the restaurant.
  • Dual-Purpose Space: New York hybrid retailer Guild – homeware store, florist and café – provides guests with a post-meal card that lists the dishware and utensils they’ve used and their location in the store. The space has an upscale urban bohemian look thanks to muted grey and blue tones, antique furniture and rustic-chic flower arrangements – see also The Floristry Connection.

See also The Rise of the Shoppable Apartment, Contextual Immersion: John Lewis and Contextual Commerce.

Modern Food Mall

  • Design Food Market: Berlin shopping mall Bikini Berlin, which targets millennials, has opened an in-mall dining hotspot called Kantini. The mix of 13 international eateries includes Hawaiian poke bowl specialist Sons of Mana and Cape Town-based patisserie Talking Beans. The space has an easy-going upbeat vibe, inspired by Californian art and design. Food stalls are painted in muted bright colours, with neon signage and sleek tiles, while the seating area consists of felt-lined benches and Scandi-style wooden dining tables.

See also Modern Malls

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Supermarket & Bistro Inspiration

  • Beauty Supermarket: Korean beauty brand Espoir has opened a self-service concept store in Seoul inspired by supermarkets. Make-Up Market’s colourful interiors feature shipping container surfaces as shelves, ‘fresh produce’ counters that double as fixtures, and refrigerators displaying products. Customers can test items in a ‘tasting zone’. A previous Espoir concept sold products in a British pub-style setting, with foundations available ‘on tap’.

    To begin navigating the store, consumers check in with smartphones. The tech-powered space detects products that consumers pick up and takes payment automatically as they leave. See also Asia’s Digital Enhanced Beauty Stores.
  • Italian Bistro: To celebrate Chinese New Year (see blog), Italian fashion brand Prada created pop-up bar-themed installations for luxury department stores in major Asian cities in early 2018. Designed as traditional but luxurious Italian cafés, the Prada Spirit retail spaces featured red velvet chairs and small black tables. At all locations, Chinese New Year-themed products were displayed in cases at a central square bar with black wooden stools.
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Published: 9 Feb 2018

Nissan Creates Guesthouse with Autonomous Furniture

Japanese carmaker Nissan is opening a pop-up ryokan – a traditional Japanese guesthouse – which features autonomous self-parking furniture and accessories.

The ProPILOT Park Ryokan concept is designed to promote the company’s ProPILOT autonomous parking system, first unveiled in its Nissan LEAF hatchback in October 2017. The ryokan demonstrates this technology through slippers, tables and tatami floor cushions that autonomously self-tidy and return to a set home position at the push of a button.

In vehicles, the ProPILOT Park technology uses four high-resolution cameras and 12 sonar sensors to anticipate surrounding obstructions. At the ryokan, each smart object moves to its designated home position by communicating with ceiling cameras using image-processing technology. The slippers have small wheels pushed into the base of the shoe that cannot be felt when worn.

Ryokans are an icon of traditional Japanese culture. By appropriating this setting, Nissan hopes to illustrate the symbiosis of new technology in historical and existing landscapes, and encourage the public to feel more comfortable about autonomous driving.

ProPILOT Park Ryokan, located southwest of Tokyo, will be open for one night only on March 24 2018. Guests are being selected through a social media contest, and must use Twitter hashtags to apply for the experience.

For more on how companies are using branded spaces to become hospitality hosts in work and leisure settings, read Tomorrow’s Wandering Workers. For another example in how Nissan is using concept campaigns to exhibit innovation and creativity, read our blog post about the company’s sweat-sensitive car.

Published: 19 Jan 2018

Waste Pioneers: Food Industry Material Innovations

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Mestic

Faced with the ever-increasing global issue of non-biodegradable waste and limited resources, a growing number of designers and researchers are developing sustainable material alternatives using industry waste. Here, we highlight exciting projects combining food industry byproducts with innovative material developments. 

  • London start-up Aeropowder uses waste feathers from the poultry industry to create sustainable and environmentally friendly insulation materials. With more than 1,000 tonnes discarded each week in the UK alone – often ending up as low-grade animal food or being incinerated – the start-up believes feathers could offer a viable alternative to standard petroleum-based products.

    Feathers are lightweight, thermal, water repellent and biodegradable, and the team is currently exploring how these properties can be exploited. It has produced an early-stage block of white, lightweight material and is continuing to develop further prototypes.

    See our CMF Industry View: Architecture & Spaces report for more on the latest building materials. 
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  • Dutch start-up Mestic is tackling the global surplus of manure by converting animal waste into new materials such as biotextiles, plastic and paper. The agricultural byproduct contains phosphorus and nitrogen – excessive amounts of which become harmful to the soil, water and air.

    The production process involves extracting a base substance of pure cellulose from dry manure, and the cellulose acetate – required to create the materials – in the form of acids from wet manure. Shiny white bio-plastics and parchment-like papers can then be achieved, along with fibres for the biotextiles.

    The team is currently working to scale up and industrialise the production of the biomaterials. Mestic was one of the H&M Global Change Award winners in 2017 – see our blog post for the other projects. 
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  • A project by Dutch designer Basse Stittgen explores whether discarded slaughterhouse blood can be used to manufacture an eco-friendly material – an attempt to utilise the millions of litres wasted by the meat industry every year.

    The designer has developed a protein-based biopolymer using 100% animal blood, which is dried out to create a powder before being heated and pressed. The albumin protein within the blood acts as the binding agent, solidifying the blood into a material. A series of small, solid black objects – such as a jewellery box and an eggcup – showcases the material in use.

    For more on using animal refuse, see Dutch Design Week 2017: Colour & Materials.

    For more on repurposed food waste, see the Trans-Industry Ingredients report in our Future of Flavour Industry Trend. 
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Published: 15 Dec 2017

Alcoholic Confectionery Brand Engages Senses Through Retail

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British alcoholic confectionery brand Smith & Sinclair has launched an experiential retail concession in UK department store John Lewis’s London flagship. Built around discovery, the installation taps into the rising trend for explorative, self-steered brand spaces, as discussed in Rise of the Exploratorium.

Smith & Sinclair’s unique range of Edible Cocktails – jelly pastilles containing half a shot of alcohol – blur the lines between alcohol and confectionery, encouraging adults to ‘play’ again. The hyper-sensorial brand space features an interactive ‘discovery and experience’ wall that diffuses the scents of the Edible Cocktails alongside pastille buttons that release unidentified aromas when pushed. After exploring, shoppers are invited to create their own Edible Cocktails selection – an adult take on classic pick ‘n’ mix sweets – and enjoy a drink at a cocktail bar.

Smith & Sinclair has also launched The Flavour Gallery – a temporary “explosive multisensory art experience” in East London enabling visitors to “hear colours, smell sounds, and taste the paintings” according to London culture site The Nudge. Both concepts hold great appeal for millennials (aged 23 to 36): 72% of US and British millennials say they crave sensorial experiences (JWT Intelligence, 2013).

Spaces that simultaneously contextualise and thrill offer alcohol brands a chance to foster more intimate, controlled dialogues with consumers. As alcohol consumption declines – global sales fell 1.3% in 2016, led by a 1.8% decline in beer sales (International Wine and Spirits Research, 2017) – brands must look for new ways to drive trial and discovery. This is particularly important for brands without a permanent physical presence (see Amazon Explores Asian Alcohol Opportunity).

See also Alcohol Concept Stores.

Published: 21 Nov 2017

WeGrow: WeWork’s Plans to Disrupt Education

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Global co-working company WeWork has announced plans to open a private elementary school called WeGrow in its New York headquarters in September 2018.

Focusing on educating children about entrepreneurship, the school will embrace hands-on teaching for practical experience. For example, kids will spend a day each week on a farm to learn how to grow vegetables, and will then have to come up with a plan for selling them.

"In my book, there's no reason why children in elementary schools can't be launching their own businesses," co-founder Rebekah Neuman told Bloomberg. "Kids should develop their passions and act on them early, instead of waiting to be 'disruptive' later in life."

The curriculum is still in development and will incorporate mindfulness, meditation and farm-to-table cooking. Technology will be important too, but won't replace interactions with teachers.

The school plans to leverage the expertise of professionals in the WeWork network, employing them as mentors to cultivate children's passions. It will also serve the community by accommodating kids in the same premises during the working day.

Another key selling point is that when parents travel, their kids can join them and tap into the WeGrow schooling network once it's established worldwide. The move into education marks further expansion of the WeWork empire, with WeGrow joining the company's housing venture WeLive and gym/spa concept Rise by We.

For more on the disruptive educational models preparing young people for the changing demands of the future workplace, see Career Pioneers.

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Oak Packaging Ages Alcohol in the Bottle

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Designed for distilled alcoholic spirits such as rum and whiskey, Brum is a packaging concept that incorporates oak timber into the bottle, allowing the maturation process to continue at home. 

Brum was conceived by Bram van Oostenbruggen, a Dutch designer and recent graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven. Inspired by his experience of distilling spirits as a hobby, van Oostenbruggen sought to invent an alternative for storing and ageing alcohol that encourages the drinker to form a deeper appreciation of the maturation process. 

Brum’s design features a cut-glass bottle that’s attached to a panel of oak timber and secured with a silicone seal to prevent leakages. The inclusion of oak timber in the packaging allows the spirit to continue maturing after it has been transferred into its individual bottle, just as it would in an oak barrel.

The use of Brum packaging also speeds up the ageing process. With smaller batches, the alcohol comes into closer and more consistent contact with the oak timber. In just a few months, the spirit contained within is able to reach a level of maturation usually achieved after several years.

Alcohol stored in Brum packaging continues to mellow even after the bottle has been opened and while it is consumed. As a result, the drinker is able to experience the influence of the oak on the spirit’s colour, flavour and aroma – a process usually concealed within the distiller’s cellar. 

Read Packaging Futures and Luxury Packaging Trends: Luxe Pack Monaco 2017 for more brands using inventive packaging to enhance product.

Published: 12 Sep 2017

Rapid Retail: Hellmann’s Trials Impulse Groceries App

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Trading on busy modern consumers’ need for speed and propensity for in-the-moment decision-making, Unilever-owned condiments brand Hellmann’s has developed a direct-to-consumer app (currently in beta) that delivers fresh ingredients for people cooking a new recipe, fast.

Created with tech start-up Quiqup (an on-demand delivery service also detailed in Retail: Delivery Innovations Update, 2016), the initiative currently revolves around Hellmann’s-featuring recipes being chosen in-app by existing Quiqup users. Those choosing a recipe will have all the ingredients delivered within an hour – presumably including a brand-new jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, making the concept more than just a profile-raising exercise for Hellmann’s. The other ingredients will come from retailers affiliated with Quiqup – from independent grocers to supermarket giants like UK brand Tesco. For more on the growing importance of trans-brand connections, look out for Wraparound Retail: IoT-Enabled Engagement in the Liquid Retail Industry Trend, publishing on September 25.

The app is currently focused on time-poor Londoners, but is applicable to cities globally – with speed being a huge concern for shoppers. Only 17% of US consumers would recommend a company with effective yet slow service (StellaService, 2014), while 83% of consumers expects more from customer service than ever, including real-time communication (Zendesk, 2017).

The concept targets a growing consumer preference, especially in the millennial bracket, for top-up shopping – an attitudinal shift based on less waste and more instant gratification. We explored this idea in New Food Roles & Rituals and Downsized Retail Destinations (see the section City Stores and the Rise of the Micro Mall).

See also Rapid Retail: Bite-Sized Engagement

Published: 7 Aug 2017

Retail x Hospitality: Muji to Open Hotels in Asia

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Japanese lifestyle brand Muji has announced plans to open hotels in Japan and China in an initiative that builds on the notion of brands reaching beyond their traditional domains (see Elastic Brands: Stretch & Diversify).

The first will open in the financial district of the Chinese city of Shenzhen in late 2017, with 79 rooms, a restaurant, a fitness centre, and a Muji store on the ground floor. In spring 2019, the brand will open a hotel above its upcoming flagship in the shopping district of Ginza, Tokyo. Once completed, the store will be Muji’s biggest to date. The first six levels will be devoted to retail, with guest rooms on the top floors.

Continuing to trade on the backbone of its existing brand DNA, some of the furniture and products in the hotels will be available to buy online. This echoes US furniture brand West Elm, which is scheduled to launch 10 hotels across the US in 2018 featuring its own products as well as locally relevant pieces (see West Elm Goes Glocal with Hotel for more). Details on how Muji guests will be able to ‘shop the hotel’ are yet to be disclosed.

The move is likely to be a canny one, providing Muji with access to the booming hospitality market (global hotel transactions rose nearly 50% to $85bn in 2015 – JLL, 2016) and enticing customers who increasingly value the chance to try before they buy.

For more on the benefits of combining retail with hospitality, see Retail x Hospitality 2017: Mutual Brand Benefits

Published: 8 May 2017

Clos19: Experiential Luxury E-Tail for Alcohol Brands

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Clos19 is a new alcohol-focused platform owned by French luxury group LVMH. The e-commerce site taps into consumers’ transitioning appetite from products towards experiences with a mix of experiential and Contextual Commerce.

Aside from offering high-end wines and spirits from LVMH’s Moët Hennessy portfolio (brands include Ruinart, Dom Pérignon and Belvedere), the platform – whose central theme is ‘The Art of Hosting’ – also sells experiences. These range from alcohol tastings at the London Edition Hotel, to mixology classes at home, as well as travel. Trips include a two-day stay at the Dom Pérignon Atelier in Champagne, France, and a lightly mentioned trip to Antarctica – “augmented with Moët Hennessy’s wine and spirits".

A Journal section provides alcohol-related content including shoppable drink recipes (text and video-based recipes with product links underneath) and hosting-focused interviews (it’s currently broadcasting a conversation with UK party designer Fiona Leahy). It also includes encyclopaedia-style factual entries on alcohol properties and processes, such as ‘Are Old Vines Better?’ – also followed by product links.

The Gift section offers gift ideas and a customisation service including gift-box engraving, with a 24-hour delivery option available (see also Rapid Retail, Retail: Deliveries Innovations Update and New-Gen Fulfilment).

Clos19 is planning to expand its reach beyond the UK shortly with a German version of the site launching this summer, and other countries (yet to be disclosed) to follow.

See also Alcohol Concept Stores, Johnnie Walker’s Conversational Edu-Interfaces and Alcohol Packaging Trends 2016.

 

Published: 7 Mar 2017

Visualising Flavour: Commonwealth Brewing Co.

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UK-based design studio Thirst has designed a range of packaging with a dynamic dye effect that expresses the flavour of beer through digital colour and pattern. The project was created for Virginia’s Commonwealth Brewing Co.

Brewery owner Jeramy Biggie commissioned the studio to design a can that enables the customer to “visually see the flavours”. Thirst, a specialist in the craft drink industry, responded with a series of four cans printed with vivid swirling colour and textures to represent bursting flavour.

To create the effects, the studio experimented with macro photography, capturing the movement and textures of different oils, vinegars and inks interacting on a plate. Thirst then edited the photographs by adding layers of deep, rich colour to represent the depth of flavours in the beers, which include India pale ale Papi Chulo and chocolate stout Marvolo.

Designers are increasingly finding new ways of visualising flavour and giving taste a sense of materiality and colour, conjuring up a more visceral understanding. This will prove a lucrative direction for beverage and food brands, where graphic packaging can offer consumers a better sense of the flavours contained within.

For this project, Thirst took a similar approach to London-based designer Zuza Mengham, who used free-flowing colour to represent scent in a series of resin sculptures for British brand Laboratory Perfumes. For more on her work and the idea of sculpting scent, see Look Ahead 2017: Colour & Materials.

For further inspiring visuals of marbled colour and texture, see Colour in Suspension and Exploding Colour. For more on developing food aesthetics, see Food & Colour: Visualising Flavour and New Food Styling.

Published: 12 Jan 2017

Burt’s Bees Launches Lifestyle Drinks

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American natural beauty brand Burt’s Bees has entered the functional foods category with a range of powdered protein shakes.

Comprising three products – Daily Protein, Protein + Gut Health with Probiotics, and Protein + Healthy Radiance with Antioxidant Vitamins A, C & E – the line’s plant-based protein is sourced from pea, rice, flaxseed, sunflower seed and oat. Additional vitamin extracts come from fruit and vegetables like spinach, strawberry and shitake mushroom. The non-GMO blends are also free from gluten, soy and dairy, as well as artificial flavours and sweeteners.

“For three decades, Burt’s Bees has […] held the belief that real beauty and wellbeing should be nourished from the inside out,” says general manager Jim Geikie. “We’ve been nurturing skin with nature’s most powerful ingredients. Now we’re helping to nourish the body with them.” 

As explored in Beauty 360, the global nutricosmetics market is projected to reach $7.4bn by 2020 (Global Industry Analysts Inc, 2015), while the global beauty drinks market is forecast to be worth over $1bn by 2019 (Technavio, 2016). Burt’s Bees’ foray into this lucrative market illustrates how more and more beauty brands are taking a holistic approach to wellbeing, following a mantra of ‘beauty from within’.

For more on brands diversifying into other categories, see Brand Stretch, while Rebranding Health offers a broader discussion into the new ways that health and wellness are being branded and marketed. 

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