Posts tagged with "Fast Company"

Sweetgreen is putting $1 million into better school lunches

September 17, 2019

They are living their “salad days,” so why shouldn’t they be enjoying fresh-grown greens (and reds and yellows) for lunch? With that in mind, the trending salad franchise, Sweetgreen, based in Culver City, California, has just committed $1 million to the nonprofit FoodCorps to transform school lunches.

Portland, Oregon-based FoodCorps launched in 2009 with a mission to connect kids with healthier ways of eating by teaching cooking, gardening, and tasting, since children love to eat things they have prepared themselves.

In this case, Fast Company reports, Sweetgreen is backing three specific initiatives that the nonprofit uses to improve school cafeterias:

  • Tasty challenge allows kids to regularly try fruits and vegetable prepared in different ways and vote for their favorites (trying raw versus roasted carrots, for instance).
  • Flavor bar allows students to choose from a variety of sauces and spices in order to explore new flavors and ways of seasoning their food (from adobo to hot sauce, ketchup, or garlic granules).
  • School Cafeteria 2.0 empowers kids to decide for themselves how their dining experience might be improved, and then use that consensus to make changes alongside school administrators. In some schools, the priority might be more natural light and plants, while in others, it could be more communal seating—rethinking how the food itself is arranged and served so kids actually have time to eat it.

Sweetgreen Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer Nathaniel Ru told Fast Company in an interview that one of the most appealing aspects of all these concepts is the “hands-on learning” opportunities for kids. In some ways, it represents what’s happening in his shops as regulars try or combine new things.

“[This] is really focused on seeking to understand students’ kind of choice and voice and things that really change behavior in terms of healthy eating in schools,” he says. (Plus, starting kids on salads early is a good step toward growing the pool of future Sweetgreen customers.)

After visiting schools and studying student behavior, FoodCorps began implementing these changes at five prototype schools last fall. With Sweetgreen’s backing, they’ll expand the effort to 15 cafeterias around the country during the 2019 school year, reaching an estimated 6,500 students in 10 states including Oregon, Arkansas, Michigan, New York, and Virginia. FoodCorps works with 350 schools in 18 states. The initial goal is to add this kind of programming to 50 schools and be helping 20,000 kids by the end of 2020.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Natalist offers monthly subscription boxes curated to help couples conceive

August 28, 2019

Getting pregnant is life’s lottery: Some couples hit the jackpot the first time they try; others start to feel as if it’s never going to happen. But for most, it’s an emotional journey, with ups and downs, insecurities and hopes.

That’s the thinking behind a new “get pregnant bundle” delivered each month by a startup company called Natalist to the homes of those who are trying to conceive.

After all, says Dr. Nazaneen Homaifar, the chief medical advisor of Natalist—and a Duke Univesity-trained OBGYN—“Trying to get pregnant can be confusing, frustrating, and not as romantic as we imagined it to be. At Natalist, we understand. And we want to help support you through this journey.”

In addition to “Dr. Naz,” the company’s founders include CEO Halle Tecco and Chief Scientific Officer Elizabeth Kane. Together, they have the business and medical knowledge that a couple trying to would appreciate.

“We’re moms, doctors, and scientists building Natlist to give you what you need—from concept to conception,” they say on their new website.

 Starting this week, according to a report by Fast Company, Natalist will discreetly deliver its first boxes (and individually purchased products) to customers’ doors.

As founder and CEO, Halle Tecco envisions arming consumers with everything they need before starting a family, including plenty of TLC. Consider it the self-care of conceiving.

The monthly “Get Pregnant Bundle” subscription box ($90 for a one-time purchase; $81 monthly) changes as one progresses through the fertility journey and continues on until birth. (Customers can cancel at any time.) The first month, for example, includes an illustrated Conception 101 guidebook complete with the basics of human reproduction and practical tips on getting pregnant.

In addition, buyers can expect a range of items ranging from ovulation tests to prenatal vitamins, the majority of which physicians recommend during a preconception visit. The cost is on par with drugstore prices, if not less, Fast Company notes.

In many ways, the business news outlet says, Natalist resembles other startups streamlining transformative stages of a woman’s life: Fridababy sells postpartum recovery products for new moms; Blume is the first cohesive line of self-care products for girls navigating puberty; while Genneve is a complete telehealth and product line for women going through menopause.

While Natalist isn’t bringing new conception products to the market, it did redesign them with a modern feminine look. The pregnancy test is sleek, compact, eco-friendly, and in a warm color palette. Such improvements stem, in part, from a Natalist survey of 1,200 women with planned pregnancies.

“If you look at the pregnancy and ovulation tests that are on the market today, they don’t feel like they belong on your bed stand or in your bathroom next to beauty products,” says Tecco.

The collection features more personal—and less clinical—language along with elegant illustrated instructions. There’s none of the medical jargon typically found on a traditional pregnancy test box.

The website features materials on conception and pregnancy—from both a medical and lifestyle perspective. On-staff doctors quash junk information from actual science-backed studies, with articles ranging from miscarriage grief to debunking sex-position myths. The team also shares their own personal pregnancy journeys on social media and a private Facebook group. The goal is to be approachable while projecting authority.

Over the long-term, Natalist envisions physicians and clinics suggesting its boxes to patients. Currently, the company is in talks with multiple employers interested in subsidizing subscriptions: They’re looking to help their employees get pregnant naturally, thereby bringing down the cost of fertility treatments.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Enjoy the ‘salad days’ with your dog

August 27, 2019

Sweetgreen—a nationwide fast-casual dining chain that serves salads—began offering a new menu item this week: dog food. The restaurateurs have partnered with the direct-to-consumer pet startup, Wild One, to create munchies for mutts out of some of the same ingredients—sliced apple and sweet potato—found among its salad greens.

The new product is called Plants for Pups. “We set out to create a treat mix akin to a Sweetgreen salad,” Minali Chatani, Wild One’s co-founder and head of brand, told Fast Company during a recent interview, adding, ““They’re designed to be tasty, healthy, and made with transparently sourced ingredients.”

The collaboration began when Nic Jammet, Sweetgreen’s co-founder and chief concept officer, stopped by the Wild One holiday pop-up and began to think about the sourcing process for dog food, which is notoriously opaque.

Together, the brands decided to collaborate on Plants for Pups as a way to showcase their mutual mission to bring transparency to food. As Fast Company has reported in the past, Wild One is known for its single-ingredient treats that are free of chemicals and fillers. The ingredients in the Plants for Pups treats are sourced from farms in the United States.

“We bring expertise on the treat industry and dog nutrition, and they bring their knowledge of ingredient suppliers and sourcing,” Chatani told the business news outlet.

The 4-ounce Plants for Pups bags will be sold for $16 on both the Wild One and Sweetgreen online stores, as well as at Sweetgreen’s Tavern store in Washington, D.C., and during the opening events at Sweetgreen’s Houston location in Montrose.

While dogs aren’t allowed in most Sweetgreen stores unless they are service animals (because of health and safety regulations), many locations have outdoor seating that is open to pets. The Montrose location will have a pet-friendly outdoor park attached to the location, Fast Company reports..

Research contact: @FastCompany

Equinox to go up against Peleton and Mirror for streaming fitness supremacy

August 16, 2019

Earlier this month, Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of the popular fitness brands, Equinox, SoulCycle, Precision Run, and Blink Fitness, sparked outrage and calls for a boycott of his businesses when he hosted a fundraiser for President Donald Trump in the fashionable Hamptons area of Long Island, New York.

But that hasn’t slowed down his push into the fitness category. In fact, Ross now has announced his intentions to take on Peloton, the New York City-based exercise equipment and media company that has revolutionized the home biking experience—connecting users to live and on-demand streaming on-screen classes across a variety of devices for $39 per month.

According to a report by Fast Company, Ross’s new digital venture will include two separate pieces of hardware and personalized content representing Ross’s portfolio of brands.

Slated for launch this fall, the platform will pair with a new stationary bike identical to the one found in SoulCycle studios—with the addition of an attached screen. Equinox also will sell its proprietary Woodway treadmill, which can already be found at its Precision Run studios.

The new digital venture (which has not yet been named, Fast Company says) will include all the brands’ signature workouts—led by top instructors—in one network. It is not meant to replace the live studio experience, rather to serve as an addition for dedicated members who want an at-home offering.

The new digital venture puts Equinox in direct competition with Peloton, which also boasts both treadmill and stationary bikes along with a broad range of fitness content. Last year, Peloton opened a new production studio dedicated to yoga and meditation in New York City. The streaming giant is now valued at more than $4 billion.

Peloton stands out in the $14 billion home fitness equipment market, but it’s becoming an increasingly crowded space: Fast Company notes the long list of competitive startups—among them,  Mirror (personal training, yoga), Crew (rowing), and Tonal (weight lifting) ; all of which are attempting to do what Peloton did for the indoor bike.

While approximately 16% of the U.S. population holds a gym membership card, a recent survey found that 54% of Americans who work out at least once a month are interested in buying an at-home fitness system.

Over the last few years, Equinox members increasingly have demanded more ways to interact with the brand on their own schedule. Around 86% of them would like to spend more time with the brand than they get to, according to a recent survey of SoulCycle riders.

The new platform will integrate live and recorded original video and audio content–and will start with an invitation-only launch in the fall, with the at-home equipment available for purchase by the winter. A more public rollout is set for early 2020.

Research contact: @Equinox_Service

Into the unknown: 400,000 UFO enthusiasts who met on Facebook intend to invade Area 51

July 15, 2019

On Friday, September 20, from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. (PDT), a huge group of alien enthusiasts—close to half a million—who found each other on a Facebook fan site has agreed to “meet up at the [U.S. government’s off-limits, fiercely guarded] Area 51 … and coordinate our entry.

“If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens,” one of the members of the Facebook site resolves.

Located 80 miles outside north of Las Vegas, Area 51 is one of the most famous military installations in the world—known more for its cloak of absolute secrecy than for the flight testing that the government insists happens at the base.

Conspiracy theorists and UFO spotters believe that the government hid an alien spacecraft, as well as the alien pilot who did not survive the flight, at the high-security superstructure over 50 years ago—and has gone to great lengths to protect its plunder.

For the uninitiated, “Naruto running” refers to the unique running style of the Naruto Uzmaki, the lead character in the Japanese anime series of the same name. He often is depicted sprinting with his head forward and his arms stretched behind him.

The Facebook-spawned event—called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us—may not end well for those who signed the petition and actually show up, according to writer Michael Grothaus of Fast Company magazine.

It may be more dangerous than they participants think, he says. Indeed, some believe the United States uses the site to develop such technology as sci-fi energy weapons, weather control options, and even time travel..

“Since 2013 the U.S. government has acknowledged that Area 51 is a military site, but has never revealed what types of operations go on there,” Grothaus comments. “Still, even if you have 400,000 people who are supposedly willing to overrun a U.S. military installation, it’s probably not a good idea to pre-announce your attack. And man, if they really do have those secret sci-fi energy weapons there, you guys are screwed.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

‘Pretty, pretty good’: Natura Cosmeticos acquires Avon Products

May 24, 2019

The news is “pretty, pretty good,” as comedian Larry David would say: Avon Products—the iconic British company that eliminated the department store beauty counter and sent its vast network of  sales representatives out to market cosmetics and beauty potions person-to-person (and door-to-door)—has been acquired by Natura Cosmeticos, a Brazilian beauty conglomerate, for about US$3.7 billion in stock.

The purchase will create the fourth-largest pure-play beauty group in the world. The combined businesses will have more than 6 million direct sellers, 3,200 stores, and operations in 100 countries, according to the companies.

In 2017, Natura bought The Body Shop, another British beauty company, from L’Oreal.

Avon, which was founded in 1886, had been struggling financially and losing salespeople, according to a report by Fast Company. However, it is still the fifth largest beauty company in the world, with a salesforce of 6.4 million reps worldwide, and generated $5.5 billion globally in 2018.

Part of Avon’s woes had to do with the fact that the company had not kept up with changing consumer behavior, Fast Company notes. At the same time, there have been many beauty startups vying for Avon’s customers.

Among them is Glossier—which launched in 2014 and began targeting Millennials with a strong social media presence. It creates product based on the vast amounts of customer data it gathers and is currently worth about $1 billion, Fast Company says

Another is Beautycounter, launched in 2013, which offers “clean beauty” products—free of 1,300 known toxins or questionable ingredients. It is currently valued at around $400 million.

In the hands of Natura, Avon products could be sold throughout Latin America, Europe, and Asia using the company’s vast distribution channels. In a release, Natura says it expects to generate annual gross revenues of more than $10 billion.

Research contact: @Naturacosmetica

Amazon’s Ring to distribute local true-crime news

May 1, 2019

if you work outside the home, until recently you had very few ways to keep track of the workmen, friends, and family who beat a path to your front door—no less, those with criminal intent.

However, Amazon’s March 2018 acquisition of the Ring security system—which comprises outdoor motion-based cameras and a video doorbell that connects to your smartphone—has changed all that. Now, users can view whoever and whatever turns up at their doorway (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in real time.

And now, Fast Company reports, the company is hiring—and not for a tech job or a member of the logistics team, as would be expected. The position (Job ID: 836421) posted on the Amazon website is described as Managing Editor, News.

According to the posting, the Managing Editor, News, “will work on an exciting new opportunity within Ring to manage a team of news editors who deliver breaking [true] crime news alerts to our neighbors.

Obviously, your closest neighbors would want to know if there are folks with criminal intent in the neighborhood—and Amazon is snatching that lucrative beat away from local news provider Patch.

Based on the job description, Fast Company notes, the right candidate will have “deep and nuanced knowledge of American crime trends,” “strong news judgment that allows for quick decisions in a breaking news environment,” and at least three years in management. Hopefully, they aren’t looking for a candidate with three years of management in Internet doorbell news management, because we’re going to guess that person does not exist.

Ring’s Neighbors App would be the perfect distribution network for such news. According to the Ring website, it already provides “real-time crime and safety alerts from your neighbors, law enforcement, and the Ring team.”

As Nieman Lab notes, Americans perceive that crime is rising even when it’s not. A 2016 Pew survey found that only 15% of Americans believed (correctly) that crime was lower in 2016 than it had been in 2008; versus 57% who thought it had gotten worse. True crime stories and apps that turn every person on the street into a potential threat undoubtedly add to the problem.

That said, the more petrified the world is, the more likely you are to buy a crime-fighting doorbell, right?

Research contact: @ring

Netflix to expand New York executive offices and production hub

April 22, 2019

The latest tech behemoth to “stream” into New York City is Netflix, according to an April 18 report by Fast Company.

Months after Amazon backed out of branching out to Long Island City, the video services provider has opted to set up shop in the Big Apple.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Netflix is building a new production hub in the city, which is expected to create hundreds of new jobs and “up to $100 million in investments to the city,” according to a statement from the Empire State Development Corporation.

“Netflix is innovative, creative, and bold—just like New Yorkers—and the expansion of this cutting-edge company in New York once again demonstrates the Empire State is open for business,”  the governor said at a press conference last Thursday.

The new production hub will comprise an expanded 100,000-square-foot office in Manhattan’s Flatiron District and six sound stages in Brooklyn that could bring hundreds of executive positions and thousands of production crew jobs to New York within the next five years.

Empire State Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Thanks to Netflix, online streaming has become as commonplace as cable television, and maybe even more accessible—and their decision to expand in New York is a validation of our work to support and develop New York’s technology, entertainment, and production industries.”

New York is giving Netflix a sweet deal, too. The state reportedly offered the company up to $4 million in performance-based tax incentives—meaning that Netflix needs to create and keep new jobs in the city in order to receive the tax breaks.

Research contact: @netflix

Airbnb’s Samara group to design and construct homes for communal living

December 3, 2018

Airbnb has already changed the way people travel. Now, the eight-year-old company is aiming to bring the peer-to-peer economy to housing, with the introduction of Backyard—described on a new website as “an initiative to protype new ways homes can be built and shared, guided by an ambition to realize more humanistic, future-oriented, and waste-conscious design.”

Airbnb’s design studio, Samara, announced the project on November 28, CNBC reports. The Backyard initiative will “investigate how building could utilize sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time.”

The goal: To test prototypes Backyard units as soon as the fall of 2019.

“We began with a simple question: What does a home that is designed and built for sharing actually look and feel like?” Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia—who alo serves as the leader of the design and innovation studio Samara—said in a statement about Backyard. “The answer is not simple at all.

“Other questions quickly emerged,” said Gebbia. “Can a home respond to the needs of many inhabitants over a long period of time? Can it support and reflect the tremendous diversity of human experience? Can it keep up with the rate at which the world changes? Can we accomplish this without filling landfills with needless waste?

“It’s a tall order.”

While there are no details about what the homes might look like or how much they will cost, Gebbia told Fast Company that Backyard isn’t just about a house, it’s an “initiative to rethink the home.”

“We helped people activate underutilized space—from a spare bedroom or treehouse to your apartment while you’re away—and built a community that connected people around the world,” Gebbia said. “With Backyard, we’re using the same lens through which Airbnb was envisioned—the potential of space—and applying it more broadly to architecture and construction.”

As The Washington Post points out, the project “could augment Airbnb’s home-rental marketplace, adding real estate development to its portfolio, as cities continue to limit the company’s short-term rentals.” Cities from New York to Washington, D.C., and Boston are passing regulations that have the effect of restricting Airbnb offerings.

Airbnb management started the initiative by surveying the construction industry for practical solutions—but quickly found that it would be “necessary to start from a blank slate.”

“If we’re truly going to reimagine the design of homes,” Gebbia remarked, “ we have to be holistic. We can’t approach Backyard solely from the point of view of design, architecture, urbanism, civic ordinance, sustainable materiality, or manufacturing. We have to grapple with the whole of it.”

He said, “For us, this goes beyond a business opportunity. It’s a social responsibility. The way buildings are made is outdated and generates a tremendous amount of waste. In order to meet the demands of the future, whether it be climate displacement or rural-urban migration, the home needs to evolve, to think forward.”

It’s a tall order—and, says CNBC, Airbnb is not the only company expanding into residential real estate and shared living space: In 2016, collaborative workspace startup WeWork launched WeLive— which currently has two apartment locations (one in New York City and the other in D.C.). Both have dorm-like living spaces and communal social spaces.

Research contact: @sarahelizberger