Brands to Watch: Easing Grocery, Bike-Buying, and More

This story has been told by technologists, engineers, and inventors alike: At the beginning of every significant technological era, comparatively, life with new technology will be simpler and easier because it will happen faster. The important thing to recognize here is that the promise of simplicity and ease is made, and so is central to our belief of, and trust in, technology. But while technology experiences today tend to operate quicker than they once did, it is not necessarily true that they deliver greater simplicity and ease to our lives.

The promise of technology serves as a great lens to understand which brands are taking advantage of the contemporary cultural desire to access simplicity through products and services. Each of the following brands remove the barriers to entry that have become paradigms in industries we all come into contact with.

Instacart: A grocery delivery service that shops like you.

Grocery shopping is a personal experience—highly visual but, perhaps more importantly, tactile. As a certificate of trust and reliability, we like to touch the things we’re about to buy and put into our bodies, which makes grocery delivery services less and less practical for consumers. In 2012, Instacart entered the online grocery delivery market by partnering with grocery stores in the U.S. to shop on behalf of consumers. No need to plan your schedule around going to the grocery store, browsing around aisles, and waiting in lines. Instacart’s value proposition beyond food delivery – is predicated on the sale of time and trust back to consumers. Specifically, time to be anywhere else but the grocery store, and the dependability to know that the food you receive will look and feel as though you had picked it out for yourself. That’s an experience that permeates the brand, from promised value to the final delivery of product at a customer’s door.

Brilliant Bicycle Co.: Buying a good bike shouldn’t be hard.

Brilliant Bicycle Co. is an online retailer of city bikes that offers a simpler experience at a fair cost. The company formed around a central insight that it’s difficult for non-bike enthusiasts to buy a bike these days. Turns out that this isn’t far from the truth. Not unlike the cultures of other commodity industries that struggle to create true differentiation, cycling culture has become a complex world that traps consumers in the complications of jargon. With this in mind, Brilliant Bicycle Co. located what it considers to be a sweet spot in the consumer search for simplicity. Consumers can choose from one of two bikes in five to six colors, sized using the familiar small, medium, and large convention. The experience almost feels like shopping for clothes, and it’s the familiarity of that kind of simplicity that allows Brilliant to deliver something unique to a saturated category that’s become more and more inaccessible to newcomers.

LittleBits: Smart design and engineering for everyone.

Traditionally, a lot of our time spent playing with construction toys is rooted in imagining what our creations might look like if they could move. With LittleBits, imagination comes to life in the form of electronic hardware creations that are assembled quickly and easily with a snap and a click. Consumers are able to choose between varieties of kit sizes, each of which includes different modules, or hardware pieces that are used to shape construction design. Pairing intuitive design with accessible construction, the brand has opened up its DreamBits tool for fans to imagine new hardware that they’d like to see included in future kits. LittleBits is open by design as ideas, creativity, and information are shared freely and, above all, simply to help ensure that the brand remains relevant with its fast-moving consumers.

MUD Jeans: Dress yourself in circular fashion.

MUD Jeans are “for people who care.” Established in 2008, the Dutch brand has developed unique ways to position their products within a heavily commoditized industry. MUD’s clothing products are made from a variety of different cottons – including organic and certified, as well as recycled – but what really sets the brand apart is the way it’s created a circular economy unique to its jeans. MUD’s “Lease A Jeans” service extends the brand’s philosophy of circular design, which is a core element of the storytelling experience. With MUD, we don’t feel regret, or that we’re being wasteful when we end our relationship with a pair of jeans. We’re comfortable knowing that relationship lives on, both literally (the jeans are used again) and figuratively (we lease or buy new MUD clothing made out of previously used material) in the brand.

Hampton Creek: Redefining the science behind the food we eat.

Delicious, healthy, sustainable, and affordable make up the four core philosophical tenets of the Hampton Creek brand. This is carried through to how it communicates and creates its products. (Each one aptly named “Just [Product].”) Beyond its simple-but-intriguing communications, Hampton Creek is the result of intersecting food science and big data to create “new” kinds of food that serve the same purpose as “old” kinds of food, but in a better way. As a food science company that examines plants at the molecular level to create healthier versions of everyday food products, Hampton Creek works to redefine the way we produce, process, and consume food. They’ve achieved a simpler and more controlled alternative to the standards of food production that the transparency movement has revealed to be riddled with concerns. With its first two products “Just Mayo” and “Just Cookie Dough” experiencing tremendous success so far, look for Hampton Creek to at the forefront of a paradigm shift in the food industry.

Catch up on the previous installments of Brands to Watch:

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Derek Last