Posts tagged with "Fortune Magazine"

The big payoff: Bakkt aspires to convert rewards points into cash we can spend anywhere

February 6, 2020

Wouldn’t it be great if you could open a digital wallet and view the sum total of all your rewards programs for hotels, airlines, retailers, pharmacies, and bankcards—all in one place, converted into cash?

What’s more, using the same wallet, you could trade cash for video game points that previously you might only have been able to use to buy, say, a sword—or you could trade points for your Bitcoin.

Formed in August 2018 by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE)—an operator of global exchanges, clearing houses, and data and listings services—Bakkt intends to do just that, according to a report by Fortune Magazine.

And the company announced this week that it will realize its vision by purchasing a specialist that handles rewards redemptions for America’s biggest sponsors, Bridge2 Solutions of Atlanta.

The deal—announced before the market opened on February 5, Fortune notes—rings the total capitalization for Bakkt, which counts Microsoft and BCB among its investors, to over $1 billion, minting a new digital unicorn.

Bakkt created the first federally regulated cryptocurrency futures exchange in New York last September—a platform that enables institutions to trade Bitcoin on the ICE U.S. Futures market.

But Jeff Sprecher, ICE’s founder and CEO, has always pursued the ultimate goal of transforming the complex payment system requiring merchants to send between 2% and 3% of all purchases to banks, credit card companies, and other intermediaries.

 “The legacy payments infrastructure is ripe for disintermediation,” Sprecher told Fortune in an itnerview. “The Internet should make it possible to create a direct payment system that doesn’t use a third-party set of rails. It hit us that making rewards cash-like would be a step in that direction.”

The Bakkt plan addresses a pressing need for the sponsors of big corporate rewards plans, dominated by hotels, airlines, and banks: These companies often have billions of dollars in liabilities sitting on their balance sheets in the form of unused points, Fortune says.

In fact, the major sponsors in the United States, alone, are sitting on a cache valued at $160 billion. In today’s strong economy, travelers are using their airline rewards points at a relatively low rate. But if the economy turns down, consumers could start cashing in heavily, causing a sudden rush of losses for the carriers. Today, points turn over on average at the extremely slow pace of around 30% a year.

According to the Bakkt team, the CFOs they have spoken to are looking for a platform that enables them to better smooth the rates of redemption by offering to purchase points in a marketplace. Companies will offer customers varying dollars per point based mostly on how likely someone is to cash in. If a frequent business traveler uses around 90% of his or her rewards, the airline might pay 2.5 cents a point; if it’s someone who flies from New Jersey to Florida once a year, but yet has lots of points, the airline might pay 1.5 cents.

The market should work, Bakkt CEO Mike Blandina told Fortune, because the sponsors will have the flexibility of setting the price. “Companies are always interested in buying back points at the right price,” says Blandina.

Now, Bridge2 is testing a pilot program called Loyalty Pay. It would enable sponsors to issue a digital credit card, carrying the merchant’s brand, that would convert rewards to cash.

“If you’re at LaGuardia Airport, you could use the card on your iPhone to buy dinner at a restaurant before catching a flight, in cash, or buy perfume in the duty-free shop,” Bridge2 President Larry Wine told Fortune.

According to Bridge2, Loyalty Pay is finding broad acceptance among sponsors and should launch in the next few months, demonstrating willingness on the sponsor side to turn points into currency. But advancing to the product that gathers all rewards in a single wallet, and translates everything to cash, will take longer, though Bakkt isn’t offering a timetable.

Bakkt’s challenge is to show merchants how they can use their savings from going direct—instead of paying the interchange fee of around 2.5% that goes to banks, credit card companies, and the like—to lower prices or provide their own rewards to customers. The numbers are in Bakkt’s favor. What’s unclear is whether retailers are willing to scrap a system that’s been reliable, though expensive, for decades.

Whatever the outcome, the ultimate goal has loads of appeal to those who have sacrificed unused points or can’t buy what they want with the rewards they’ve accumulated.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Make-up that is ‘self’-centered is L’Oreal’s next big bet

January 9, 2020

France’s fashion sense is timeless, simple, and elegant—but it is not entirely unobtainable. In fact, L’Oréal—the Paris-based beauty group— is betting big on its next product to help women everywhere transform themselves in a style that is uniquely and solely their own.

It’s a tiny device that’s only 6.5 inches tall and weighs just over one pound, but will enable makeup mavens to create personalized cosmetics at home, Fortune Magazine reports.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month, the French cosmetics and personal products giant will debut a new hardware device called Perso, which whips up compressed beauty formulas from physical cartridges to create on-the-spot skincare, lipstick, and foundations.

Think of it like a mini makeup Keurig, Fortune suggests—but, instead of getting a specialized espresso drink, you’ll be creating a unique pink lipstick or skin cream.

It’s a long-term relationship with the consumer,” Guive Balooch, head of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, told the magazine in an interview on the show floor.

For skincare, Perso’s app will take into account the local air quality, temperature, humidity, and other factors that fluctuate and affect the skin. It then creates a recipe that even adjusts depending on if you are applying the skincare formula in the morning or the evening.

Perso’s hardware features a proprietary motor system located at the top of the device, which moves and compresses the formula from the cartridges at the base of the machine in an upward motion to the dispensing tray above for a clean application.

The lipstick option is more focused on playful trends. Perso has a base of three different colors: light pink, red, and purple, and to create a shade, users can take a picture of themselves and the app will then recommend a shade based on hair color, clothing and skin tone. Users can also create shades based on what’s trending on social media at the time.

Perso is essentially all about tech-enabled personalization, a trend making waves in a variety of consumer product categories, including apparel, food and beverage, and footwear.

“Everyone understand the value of personalization and no one owns that more than beauty because it is in their foundation,” Genevieve Aronson, VP of Communications at Nielsen told Fortune Magazine.

Embracing personalization is a way for beauty makers like L’Oréal to boost the industry’s sales. In-store beauty sales total approximately $37 billion in the U.S. market, but annual growth is reported at just 1% over the past two years, according to Nielsen. And yet personalized products are 1.7 times more likely to drive sales, says Aronson. So placing a greater emphasis on personalization can potentially help jolt beauty sales.

“The only way to achieve beauty for all is through technology,” says Balooch. “You can go to a [makeup] counter and find 40 to 50 shades of foundation. But the reality is, there are far more people with different shades than those options.”

In fact, testing for Perso hit a bit of a snag during the development process when Balooch and his team realized that the application wasn’t quite nailing skincare recommendations for individuals with darker skin tones. “It was a lot harder than we had anticipated,” Balooch says, adding that for foundation, 50% of women say they can’t find the exact shade they’d like at the store.

So L’Oréal spent an additional six months testing the product with 400 women, varying from very light to very dark skin. “We realized we had to measure peoples’ skintones, put the product on skin, and then achieve the match,” says Balooch.

Still, some key details need to be ironed out for Perso. Balooch says L’Oréal hasn’t yet solidified distribution for the Perso system and no-pricing structure has been set for the device or the cartridges that would need to be re-ordered over time. The goal is to launch the technology in 2021.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Throwing shade and some chill: Someone put air conditioning in a baseball cap

January 7, 2020

At the Consumer Electronics Show—the humongous trade show hosted annually by the Consumer Technology Association in Las Vegas— there’s something new to wrap your head around this year (or should we say, to wrap around your head?)

In years past, the show has seen everything from walking cars to smart diapers. And this year is no exception to the glorious strangeness, Fortune Magazine reports.

Pretty much everyone wears a baseball cap for protection from the sun and heat at one point or another—even when they are not at the ballpark. Now, entrepreneur Steve Feher is taking things to the next level—showcasing a cap that has air conditioning built in.

This is not his first “cool” device, either. Feher—who founded Feher Research in 1993 in Honolulu—has previously produced a personally air-cooled mattress pad, seat, pillowcase, and steering wheel,

The cap that he brought to CES this year foregoes refrigerants and instead uses thermoelectric technology to produce cooler air that, in turn, lowers the temperature of the scalp—as much as 22 degrees below the ambient temperature, he told Chris Morris of Fortune during an interview on the show floor.

The cap is a prototype, and Feher is looking for licensees at the show. It’s not exactly a fashion-forward item, as the cap needs to hook up to a battery system (which, Feher notes, weighs less than a “high quality pair of running shoes”).

The hat prototype itself weighs 305 grams, a bit more than a mini-can of soda. (The production model is expected to weigh a bit less.) Throw in the battery pack and you’re looking at more than 800 grams (just shy of 2 pounds.)

The cap is not in production yet, but with global warming affecting weather worldwide, it may be worth both the “wait” and the “weight.”

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

A new kind of ‘Goop’: Marie Kondo’s new website sells highly curated items that ‘spark joy’

November 21, 2019

Just as actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, Goop, sells curated—and expensive—items in a “shop of clean beauty, fashion, and home”  (think: Luxe Brass Fire Extinguisher for $250), now decluttering expert Marie Kondo is producing a lifestyle platform that offers pricey products that will “spark joy” (think: cement live edge bowl for $145).

In her best-selling book and popular Netflix series, both entitled, Tidying Up With Marie Kondothe Japanese organizing consultant advises clients to clean up their homes (and, by extension, their lives) by decluttering and getting rid of excess junk so that they can be happier and healthier overall.

But isn’t buying new stuff at an online store just a way to clutter up again? It seems counter-intuitive.

“The shop came about because I always like to share how I tidy every day, and in the process of doing that, I always ask myself, ‘Well, why do we tidy in the first place?’ The answer is to live a life that sparks joy,” Kondo told Fortune Magazine in a recent interview.

Kondo explained that she received a lot of queries and feedback from fans about the products she uses  on an everyday basis, and this is meant to be reflected in the catalog of items.

“When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising,” is just one of the Kondo quotes serving as taglines for the collection.

The collection will launch with approximately 150 items, ranging in price from $10 to $300, applying to various situations that one might encounter around the home and organized by activity—dinner parties, bathing routines, aromatherapy, and purification rituals. Kondo helps illustrate the concept of a purification ritual with a tuning fork ($50)—among her favorite products included in the collection—which she uses to purify the air in her home

Among Kondo’s other favorite items are incense and a donabe (a $150 Japanese clay pot described by Bon Appetit  magazine as a “one-pot wonder”), which she uses on a daily basis. As Kondo explains, it’s one of the oldest types of cooking vessels in Japan; and in the wintertime, it’s Japanese tradition to have a “donabe party,” at which hosts have their friends and family over, make a big pot with vegetables and tofu, and share it over conversation.

Each item was chosen for its ability to enhance the owner’s daily rituals and inspire a joyful lifestyle. They come from brands deemed to specialize in simple, elegant design across categories, including kitchenware, decor, bath essentials, and aromatherapy. And of course, there are be tidying products, including trays, shelves, and baskets.

“They are ‘tidy chic’ because even your dustpan should spark joy,” notes a spokesperson for the brand.

Arguably, it may seem counterintuitive that the next step for KonMari is encouraging followers to go out and buy more stuff, especially given the fervor to start spring cleaning in midwinter earlier this year.

“That’s something we carefully considered, of course,” Kondo replies. “For me, the emphasis is not on trying to throw out as much as possible but to choose what sparks joy for you. The ultimate goal with my method is for people to really hone their sensitivity to what sparks joy for them so they can make a considered, cautious purchase.”

In regards to how this should work, Kondo advises that you first finish tidying. Once you’ve done that, you might then consider looking at the shop. “It’s not my intention at all to encourage you to buy something that is redundant to you,” Kondo explains.

The collection will went live online on Monday, November 18, via, with new products expected to be added monthly.

Kondo offers a closing piece of advice: “I know it’s an odd thing for a founder to say—they’re lovely products—but don’t overbuy! Tidy first, and then consider the products.”

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

BarkBox takes a bite out of a new niche category

November 6, 2019

Some dog owners joke about spending more money on their beloved pets than they do on themselves. But given the explosion of new direct-to-consumer fresh pet food brands, plant-based and CBD-infused treats, and sartorial accessories that cost as much as high-fashion brands, that’s not just banter: On average, dog owners are spending $1,285 per year on each pet. .

And now, there’s a new product category—doggy dental gear—to spend those big bucks on; because, unless you do it for them, your fur babies are not brushing their own canines (or any of their other teeth).

Benign neglect is not the way to go, an October 30 report by Fortune Magazine points out. More than 80% of dogs develop oral disease in their lifetime, which can result in infections, bad breath, and even expensive surgeries.

What to do?

Not to worry: Bark, the brand behind the runaway success of BarkBox—a monthly subscription-based, curated mailing of all-natural dog treats and toys—will fill the dental gap, even before you can say “market niche” or “competition.”

“Most dog parents don’t regularly clean their dogs’ teeth, because it’s such a frustrating process for dogs and their people,” Bark cofounder Henrik Werdelin told Fortune recently. “Dental treats can only do so much, so we developed this one-two punch product to make dental health something dogs look forward to.”

Among the first products for this brand will be Bark Bright Dental Chews, which are touted by the brand as the first combination of a proprietary enzymatic toothpaste with a cleansing chew.

To use the product, dog owners apply the chicken-flavored toothpaste along the ridges of a similarly chicken-flavored dental chew. Dogs then gnaw and nibble on the chew on their own, activating the toothpaste’s enzymes while also cutting away at plaque and buildup.

This month, Bark will be soft launching a limited beta supply of Bright Dental to BarkBox subscribers exclusively with the intent of getting feedback from customers about wellness and behavioral changes.

A wider release is planned for the spring, as Bark also signed with a major national retailer to sell Bright Dental in stores, although the company declined to announce the retailer’s name.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Bail on kale: It has too many pesticides!

March 21, 2019

Americans have been nothing short of kale-obsessed for the past few years: In fact—following a flirtation with broccoli in the 1980s and pesto in the 1990s—we have become so fixated on the leafy, green vegetable that it has seen a 400% increase on U.S. restaurant menus since 2008, according to Technomic, a research service for the food and beverage industry.

But foodies should get ready to move on to another “k-food” in the near future—maybe kelp, or kimchi, or kefir or kombucha. An annual study by a nonprofit environmental group has found that—despite its high levels of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and K —kale just might be less healthful than you think.

Interestingly enough, Kale ranked third on the Environmental Working Group’s “2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”—a list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues, according to a recent report by Fortune magazine. That was a big jump for the leafy green, which hasn’t appeared at all on the list since 2009.

“More than 92% of kale samples had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues,” the report read.

Strawberries and spinach took the number one and two spots, respectively, the business news outlet reported. Kale and spinach samples had, on average, 1.1 to 1.8 times more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop, said the EWG.

Other foods on the Dirty Dozen list, in decreasing order of their pesticide residues, include: nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes.

The annual study looks at pesticide levels on nearly 41,000 fruits and vegetables that are tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture.

Unlike other pesticide-focused studies, this one does not search for a specific brand, such as the weed killer used in Roundup.

Pesticides are regularly used in agriculture, of course, and food service companies say the levels are far below those that have been found to be unsafe for human consumption.

Not all fruits and veggies were denigrated, however. The EWG also put out its “Clean 15” list of the produce with the lowest levels of pesticide residue. Avocados topped that list, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons. .

Research contact: @ewg

Thai entrepreneur acquires Fortune magazine for $150M in cash

November 12, 2018

Just as “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” according to Bob Dylan’s iconic 1964 song; so, too, are the former TIME Inc. magazines. Purchased just one year ago by the Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith Corporation—best-known for its flagship publication Better Homes & Gardens—the prestigious media group now is being sold off, title by title.

Following the purchase of TIME magazine by Marc and Lynn Benioff this September for $190 million in cash; Fortune magazine now is being acquired by Thai entrepreneur Chatchaval Jiaravanon for US$150 million in cash. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close this year.

According to a Meredith announcement, Jiaravanon will own Fortune as a personal private investment— independent of his role in his family business, C.P. Group, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, based in Bangkok.

He has said the he intends to increase investment in Fortune’s digital capabilities, geographic expansion, and editorial talent as part of a strategy to become the premium business content provider worldwide.

“Our vision is to establish Fortune as the world’s leading business media brand, with an always-on reach and global relevance,” said Jiaravanon. “The demand for high-quality business information is growing, and with further committed investment in technology and brilliant journalism, we believe the outlook for further profitable growth is excellent both for the publication and the events business.”

Jiaravanon is involved in C.P. Group’s technology, media and telecom businesses. He serves as a Board Member of True Corporation, a leading public company in Asia with more than $10 billion in assets, $4 billion in revenues, and 23,000 employees.

Fortune magazine was founded in 1930 at the outset of the Great Depression. In recent years, it has evolved from a traditional print publication into an international multiplatform, multimedia business. Its major franchises include the FORTUNE 500; 100 Best Companies to Work For; Most Powerful Women; World’s Most Admired Companies; 40 Under 40; Fastest-Growing Companies; and the Change the World list. Its wide range of annual conferences include FORTUNE Most Powerful Women; FORTUNE Brainstorm Tech; FORTUNE Brainstorm Health, the CEO Initiative; and the FORTUNE Global Forum.

As part of the transaction, Meredith will provide short-term business continuity services;  and has entered a multi-year agreement with Jiaravanon to provide services such as corporate sales, consumer marketing, subscription fulfillment, paper purchasing,  and printing.

Research contact: @MeredithCorp

Levi Strauss CEO takes a stand on gun violence

September 12, 2018

Support for tougher gun laws hit a 25-year high last March in the United States, in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A Gallup poll fielded that month found that 67% of Americans  supported tougher restrictions on guns.

At that time, several businesses, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, responded to the death of 17 students—and the nationwide fear of gun violence—by limiting their sales of semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15, as well as the bullets that go with them.

But those companies with no ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA) or gun sales hesitated to take a stand, for fear of alienating their customers. Except, that is, for Levi Strauss & Co., which in November 2016 requested in an open letters from its CEO that gun owners not bring firearms into its stores, offices, or facilities—even in states where it is permitted by law.

In a September 4 commentary piece published by Fortune magazine, Levi Strauss President and CEO Chip Bergh recalls the backlash after that letter became public—and challenges other like-minded businesses to do the same.

“In the days after I published that letter,” Bergh says, “I received threats to our stores, our business, and even on my life. It was unsettling. But these personal attacks pale in comparison to the threats that activists and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and daily incidents of gun violence face every time they speak up on this issue.”

However, he says to other business leaders in the opinion piece, “We simply cannot  stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option….Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and walks of life.”

As of September 4, Bergh said, “on top of our previous actions, Levi Strauss & Co. is lending its support for gun violence prevention in three new areas.”

  • First, says Bergh, the company has established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from Levi Strauss & Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.
  • Second, Levi Strauss will partner with Everytown for Gun Safety and executives including Michael Bloomberg to form Everytown Business Leaders for Gun Safety—“a coalition of business leaders who believe, as we do, that business has a critical role to play in and a moral obligation to do something about the gun violence epidemic in this country.”
  • Third, he says, “We know that some of our employees have been personally affected by this issue and want to see change.” Therefore, the company is doubling its usual employee donation match to organized aligned with its Safer Tomorrow Fund. In addition, Levi Strauss is encouraging its staff who are concerned to get involved. The company provides employees with five hours a month (60 hours a year) in paid volunteer time—and recently expanded this to include political activism.

“As a company,” Bergh says, “we have never been afraid to take an unpopular stand to support a greater good. We integrated our factories in the American South years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. We offered benefits to same-sex partners in the 1990s, long before most companies did. We pulled our financial support for the Boy Scouts of America when it banned gay troop leaders.

“While each one of these stands may have been controversial at the time, history proved the company right in the long run. And I’m convinced that while some will disagree with our stand to end gun violence, history will prove this position right too.”

The NRA commented immediately after the opinion piece ran, saying” In a repulsive insult to the nation’s 100 million gun owners, Bergh likened Levi’s campaign to restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans to previous company efforts aimed at combating pre-Civil Rights Era racial bigotry. Among gun owners, Levi’s has used its name and resources to attack gun rights.

“Given the majority of Levi’s 165-year history, Bergh’s decision to use a formerly quintessential American company to attack a quintessential American right is a particularly sad episode in the current surge in corporate virtue-signaling. We can only assume that Levi’s accountants have determined that resulting skinny jeans sales will be enough to offset the permanent damage to their once-cherished brand.”

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