Posts Tagged innovation

What can China’s impressive beer growth teach U.S. breweries about innovation?


Tsingtao fresh draft’s refreshing taste is a perfect match for savory and tasty food

So which country drinks the most beer in the world? In terms of per person consumption, European countries predictably dominate the top 10 (USA is #13). However, in terms of volume, China has been at the top of the list since 2002, with it’s citizens drinking more than 450 million hectoliters of beer each year, more than double the amount of beer we drink in the US. Four of the world’s top 10 beer brands in terms of volume are from China, with Snow and Tsingtao taking the top 2 spots, outselling Budweiser and Bud Light in third and fourth place. It’s not just from the volume of its nearly 1.4 billion inhabitants either – by 2017, China is expected to beat the US to become the world’s biggest beer market. China’s beer industry is expected to reach over USD 100 billion in 2018, up from USD 75 billion just last year, according to Euromonitor. So what exactly is driving the growth of beer in China, and what can US markets borrow from China and Asia’s take on beer to overturn 3 years of straight dips in sales?

Having worked and lived in China and other parts of Asia for the past 8 years, I’ve witnessed some interesting developments contributing to the growing popularity of beer. While hard liquor manufacturers have been hit hard in the past year by the Chinese government’s anti corruption crackdown (many highflyers and officials were supposedly receiving pricy hard liquor gifts which conveniently had high re-sell value), beer has benefited from steadily growing sales. Part of the upward trend is due to beer solidifying its role as a great drink with food. Beer also is a more approachable, affordable, and unisex friendly social catalyst compared to wine and liquors. In fact, there’s even evidence of beer and hard liquor becoming “frenemies”. If you can’t take liquor down, why not create new rituals to form new alliances?

Using beer to capture the meal occasion

Beer and food naturally go hand in hand. In the US, beer and barbeque, or beer with your choice of junk food while watching the game come to mind as intuitive pairings. However, only a relatively small percentage of beer is consumed with food in the US compared to China, where 70% of beer is enjoyed at a meal. While wine, baijiu (Chinese high proof white liquor) and Chinese yellow wine (huangjiu) are still the drinks of choice over food for more sophisticated palettes and VIP occasions, Chinese consumers think the refreshing, cool taste of beer is a perfect complement to the savory, spicy, greasy and deep fried foods they love. That all sounds like a fantastic opportunity for foreign brewers to tap into, but the challenge is that many Chinese consumers still naturally think of local beer brands first when paired with Chinese food.

Leading the meal occasion war is local beer brand Tsingtao. They were the first ones to introduce a new type of ‘fresh draft’ beer (chun sheng) in 2007, which is now the fastest growing variant in their portfolio. So what’s so special about fresh draft beer? Unlike draft beer in the US, it is still mainly served in bottles rather than on tap. The flavor profile is more ‘pure’ and bland. Fans swear it tastes more refreshing and smooth compared to regular beer, and is a better choice with their meal because the beer taste doesn’t compete with the flavors of their food, which should remain the hero at every meal. Chinese beer lovers are willing to pay more for it too, most fresh draft beers typically command a 20-30% premium over regular beers. Following Tsingtao’s move, many local brands such as Zhujiang, Harbin and Snow have also launched their own versions of fresh draft, but Tsingtao remains the segment leader as the first mover.

Beer is widely enjoyed over more casual meals with close friends and family, but one key barrier of beer at the Chinese dinner table is it’s humbler image compared to its more glitzy wine and liquor cousins, some think it’s not premium or ‘face worthy’ enough for important business dinners. To tackle this, AB Inbev China recently launched Budweiser Supreme, a super-premium beer brewed for consumption in fine restaurants, presented in an elegant large glass bottle resembling packaging cues of wine. At it’s pilot launch, wine glasses with the Bud Supreme logo were given to restaurants to serve the beer (compared to the typical mini highball glasses beer is usually served in) to complete the prestigious experience. With this new premium variant, it will be interesting to see whether it will appeal to the tastes of a new generation of Chinese VIPs.

Food for thought: What can brewers do in the US to create a stronger link between beer and food to drive beer sales with meals? What are the best pack, product, flavor and messaging cues to make it more of a must have with meals? How can we partner more closely with restaurants to drive beer sales?


Budweiser Supreme steals packaging cues from wine bottles for a more premium image. This ad suggests it’s the best beer to serve at weddings.


The unisex, slow-tipsy social catalyst

One reason US beer drinkers are switching to liquor is that they see it as a less expensive way to get higher alcohol content in a short amount of time. However, one can argue that there are certain moments when a slower, more gradual tipsy experience is preferred. Take the infamous Chinese karaoke session for example. While many of us think of karaoke as the ultimate get-drunk-and-embarrass yourself activity, KTV is another beast in China. When you go to KTV (China’s nickname for karaoke), there is always a group of people who take the singing extremely seriously; they are there to perform with prowess. That’s pretty hard to do when you’re drunk. Beer is actually a great ‘slow alcohol’ alternative to harsher liquors for these star performers.

Beer is also seen as the best drink to please everyone. In cities like Shanghai, even though ladies who can handle their liquor are on the rise, there is still a large group who don’t really know how to drink, or don’t like the taste of higher proof alcohol. Beer is the easiest 101 choice that both guys and girls can drink together. It’s a great filler or warm up to enjoy over drinking games to bond and break the ice.

Before the recent emergence of sweeter brews like Bud Light Lime-a-Rita and Redd’s Apple in the US, Taiwan Beer, Taiwan’s dominating local beer brand, had already introduced fruit beer in tropical flavors such as mango and pineapple back in 2012. With 2.8% alcohol content and a sweeter flavor profile, these fruit beers have exceeded initial sales projections and have found success as a summer or beginner’s drink that’s versatile and easy to like. The latest flavor added to the mix is lychee. Taiwan brewer Long Quan has even launched a Hello Kitty fruit beer line.

There’s also been an interesting rise of beer as THE drink to enjoy with live music. It helps dial up the atmosphere without getting people drunk too quickly. This year, Budweiser is cashing in on the electronic dance music craze in Shanghai by sponsoring Budweiser STORM, the first large-scale EDM festival in Shanghai featuring international artists and DJs like Axwell Λ Ingrosso, Kaskade and Kesha over the October golden week holiday this year. A perfect match? We think yes.

Sweet success: How can beer manufacturers play up beer’s more casual, accessible appeal to it’s full advantage, and enhance it’s role as a true social catalyst for both guys and girls? What new occasions and events can beer really own? How can beer cement it’s success as the relaxed, casual drink for everyone?


A typical night in a Chinese KTV, playing dice games over beer


Taiwan Beer’s fruit beers have found a wide audience despite initial skeptics. Taiwanese beer maker Long Quan has since followed the trend with a Hello Kitty fruit beer series, available in Taiwan and China.


Budweiser STORM is China’s first and largest international electronic dance music festival, Budweiser of course is the official drink of choice.

Beer and liquor, an unusual pairing.

There’s a growing fascination with cocktail culture in the US, which is stealing the hearts of beer drinkers, so it’s easy to label liquor as beer’s enemy. Yet in China and Asia, consumers, manufacturers, and bar owners are finding creative ways to marry the two. In some of the hottest Shanghai dancing clubs, owners are pairing champagne with beer in bundle deals (champagne is the fastest growing alcohol in China, especially among the ladies). Although an unusual pairing at first glance, they both have that light, bubbly, refreshing profile that actually makes sense, and drives more beer sales.

In Korea, there is a recent ritual of mixing Soju (Korean white liquor) with beer to make a new drink fondly known to Koreans as the soju bomb. At restaurants all over Korea, you can now find shot glasses for making soju bombs, marked with various guide lines on the glass for your choice of soju:beer ratio based on your personal tolerance of adventure for the evening. Some young beer drinkers in China have also started making their own beer and vodka cocktails for house parties to break the ice without getting drunk too quickly.


Soju bomb cups can easily be found in restaurants all over South Korea. Pick your own level of soju vs beer for your desired level of tipsiness.

It’s definitely challenging to innovate in a classic category that has been established in the minds and hearts of consumers over many years. Of course, beer plays different roles in evolving cultural contexts and product life stages. In a relatively developing beer market like China, the white canvas for it’s future is inspiring. Just with a few simple tweaks, beer can be re-expressed, renovated, and presented in refreshing new ways when you break down the confines of how it is currently being perceived. Here’s a challenge to brewers and beer lovers all over the world, take a fresh look at beer, it’s definitely here to stay, so let’s come up with some creative ways to reinvigorate the category.

Mind Control is now a reality


Mind control is now a reality.  Forget voice commands and eye gestures, now there’s a way to change the channel of your TV, answer a call, or turn off the lights simply through brain commands.  Philips, Accenture, and Emotiv Insight Brainware have partnered to create software that easily lets you control the various devices in your home, using real time sensors that pick up the wearers’ feelings, thoughts and expressions.  This is a breakthrough for those suffering from mobility issues and neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS. Imagine the endless possibilities and convenience in a world where this is available to a wider audience, where anyone can control their gadget of choice without lifting a finger, no matter where they are.

Check out the video below! We look forward to seeing this concept unfold.

Apple and wearable tech: When being late to the game works in your favor

apple watch

Next Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook will make the most important announcements of his tenure: the first set of major new products that won’t be largely credited to his legendary predecessor Steve Jobs.

It’s a hard act to follow. At least in the last ten years of his life, no person on the planet was more associated with innovation in computing technology than Jobs. This has led many to continually look at Apple to see if it’s falling off from prior greatness ever since his death, in part because Apple under Cook hasn’t introduced a new product category for the company, as Jobs did with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. It looks like this run without a major new product category will come to an end on Tuesday with a long-anticipated smartwatch (I was among those who have been anticipating it), as well as the new iPhone 6.

As was the case in the run-up to the original iPhone, there are a few things very different about this announcement from Apple’s usual product launches:

1. Though everyone expects the iWatch to exist, it hasn’t appeared on the internet yet; the iPhone 6, by comparison, has been assembled and started up from replacement parts in many, many leaks.

2. Apple seems to be the last company on the planet to launch a smartwatch, following Pebble, LG, Motorola, Metawatch, Basis, Fitbit, Garmin, Sony, and Samsung (6 of them in the last year).

The latter point is the most interesting (the first just shows how serious about secrecy Apple can be when it wants to), largely because it raises the question: why is everyone so interested in Apple’s watch when you can buy dozens of others in the store today? Isn’t Apple late to the party? You bet they are. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

For big innovations, that kind that adds tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue (as the iPhone and iPad have), Apple is almost always last to introduce their version. Mp3 players were around for at least 5 years before the iPod. Smartphones were rolled out more than 8 years before the iPhone. And Tablets were first shown by Microsoft in 2001, 9 years before the iPad. Heck, the original Macintosh wasn’t even Apple’s first graphical computer (that would be the Lisa), let alone the first one on the market. In each case, despite the wait, Apple’s versions of these products were the first to show the potential of the platforms.

Why does Apple do this? Because it allows Apple to let other people do some of its R&D for them, learn from the in-market failures, and then home in on the idea use cases that actually make the product worth people’s time. Ironically, Apple’s approach is very similar to the smartest thing Bill Gates has ever said, which is that the tech industry overestimates how different the world will look in two years and underestimates how different it can be in 10. This leads to unrealistic product plans in which cutting-edge technologies are expected to revolutionize everything on a short timeline. Apple understands it’s smarter to begin planning for about 10 years down the road — and maybe launch your products then — after the very first product of its kind comes to market.

Back to the smartwatch category. Guess when the first commercially available smartwatch with internet connectivity was released? That’s right. 2004.

As ever, Apple will be right on time to be fashionably late, and the new race to copy their approach will begin.

Finding inspiration for innovation–without leaving your neighborhood

When most people think about gathering inspiration, they probably think about visiting a city they’ve never been to, retreating into nature, or reading up on the latest fashion trends. While there is a great of inspiration to be found in exploring the new and exciting and getting lost in thought, sometimes the best exercise for your insight muscle and creativity for innovation is simply acting as a tourist among familiar sights and sounds around you in your own city—or as we like to call it at antedote: streetscaping. Streetscaping is wandering around familiar or unfamiliar places with the lens of discovery and soaking up what’s happening, interesting, standing out, or even hiding.

Your neighborhood is your best and closest resource to gathering information, and it’s amazing what you can discover in a few short hours. As researchers, it’s important to live as a consumer, to experience things firsthand rather than as you would expect, and to walk around with your senses heightened. Here are some things that I discovered this weekend while walking through my neighborhood with a new set of eyes, and no particular destination.

Craftsman and Wolves – On special occasions I’ll run by Craftsman and Wolves for their delicious pastries. I’m usually in a hurry, but today I had all the time in the world. These people are off the charts creative. Their love of food is evident in everything from the environment, to the presentation, and of course, the tastes.

Dandelion Chocolate – I had received a gift from a friend that included some chocolates from this local shop. Intrigued by the packaging, I decided to drop by. Inside the store you can actually watch the chocolate being made. They also offer regular lectures on provenance (the next one featured someone returning from a sourcing trip to talk about what they found.) The entire place is extremely experiential.

Mission Cheese – You don’t have to go abroad to experience amazing cheese. Walking into this store is like walking into a cheese shop in Europe.

Self-edge – While food is a great way to experience the world with all five senses, self-edge is an emerging kind of space that’s all about sustainability, recycled materials, and of course, makers. At antedote we’ve done plenty of work with Makers, so I stopped by to chat with the staff about what they were doing, and of course bought a hat to replace the one I had lost in London.

Creativity Explored – Another unique kind of space, creativity explored is “where art changes life.” It’s a space that people can come and create, or walk through galleries including everything from kids drawings to professional works of art. This place is the blend of an art studio and a gallery, and is a perfect example of inviting your clientele into the creative process.

Dog-eared books – Second hand bookstores have been around for a very long time, so they are often overlooked when it comes to innovation. I made sure to drop by Dog-eared books to check out the local staff picks and to see what sort of themes are standing out to readers these days.

Chocolatier Blue – In case I hadn’t had enough chocolate, I dropped by Chocolate Blue. I paid attention to every detail in the chocolate presentation. Everything was so precise—and unlike chocolate that I normally eat—I sampled the unique options such as chili, waffles and ice cream, and caramel apple.

The Chai Cart – I’m not a chai drinker myself, but one of my employees is, and so I brought back a brochure to share with her and pass on a bit of the experience I had that day.

What’s most fascinating to me is that all of these places were right down the road from my apartment, but I felt as if I’d never been in the neighborhood before. I wasn’t working; I was driven by the love of curiosity to see what I would find. It’s obvious the implications that discovery and observation have for your work—borrowing from other categories is a key element of innovation. Practicing these skills of engagement and observation can influence your skills as a researcher as well. When you’re conducting research, you have to have your eyes and ears open to new things, or seeing old things in a new light.

I parked my car on 16th, and only made it as far as 20th and Valencia, and I was gone the entire day.

When technology meets functional and social needs


More than a decade ago, I was deeply engrossed in the movie Bicentennial Man (RIP the great Robin Williams). I remember watching the bewildered faces of the two children as their father brings home a life-size family droid who would live with them and help them with tasks around the house.

I recall doubling over in laughter as one of the daughters tells the droid to jump out the window of the second floor of their house. Unable to detect her sarcasm and her ill-intentions, Robin William’s character does exactly as he is told, and well… jumps out the window. On the other hand, the younger daughter empathizes with the droid, and took it on as a playmate and trusted companion.

It’s 2014, and that sci-fi fantasy of the “family robot” is becoming much more of reality, and we see more and more research into designing social technology that plays to our emotions, like the younger daughter of Bicentennial Man.

Like many people, I’m excited to see the latest innovations in robotics. For instance, the launch of Jibo on Indiegogo a few weeks ago. Jibo can see, speak, hear, learn, and do a variety of tasks to help you around the house. He can order your favorite take-out dish for you, he can tell you fantastical stories, and he can even follow you around the room and snap your photo using facial recognition.

What I most love about Jibo is however, that it doesn’t try to look like a human. As seen in its promo video, Jibo has no arms or legs, but the smooth, sleek feel of Eve from Wall-E. He swivels around and has cute animations, which convey emotions and empathy. It is remarkable to see what animation studios like Pixar do in the 2D world, in the 3D world: bringing to life otherwise inanimate objects.

One of my favorite TED talks, by MIT Media Lab’s Guy Hoffman, called “Robots with Soul” explores this idea of robots that are well…less “robotic.”  With his studies in animation and acting, he set on making robots exhibit the more fluid movements of no-verbal communication that humans have. He developed a speaker that bobs his “head” to the beat of the music he is playing to give the illusion that he is enjoying the music being played. And in his studies, although the people know the robots are machines, they look at, interact with, and speak about the robots as if they were other people. “He definitely enjoys this jam.”

Even TED Senior Fellow Aparna Rao explores how you can evoke emotions from non-sentient objects. In her art pieces, inanimate objects without faces react to their surroundings, in an often humorous and entertaining way. In one of her pieces, art on the wall starts to swivel around slowly then quickly, until it senses that someone has entered the room, then they go back to the original places. The timing and movements of the pieces give the illusion that the art is being “mischievous” when no one is looking.

Human emotions are extremely complicated and are always communicated non-verbally. Paul Ekman, a professor at UCSF, and affectionately called the “best human lie detector in the world” pioneered the research into human emotions and found that humans across the world use certain combinations of facial muscles to convey emotions. These muscles will always move, (it would take years of practice to suppress and control these muscles), and it would take an expert, like Ekman, to discern these non-verbal cues with the naked eye.  I would love to see robots who not only personify human behavior, but who would be able to detect subtle emotions by picking up on these “micro-isms” and respond appropriately given the situation. “Are you feeling okay, Sabrina? How about I text your friend Lea if she is free to go out to the movies tonight? I think it would be great for you to get out of the house and hang out with friends.”

Technology have long been designed to move/act based on the service they were providing. And they had that unnatural “robotic” feel that reminded us that we are interacting with a machine.  It is fascinating now to see robots, like Jibo, take a step beyond meeting mere functional needs to becoming social entities that can play to our emotions, interact with us in a more natural way, and be perceived as more of a valued companion that meets real social needs. For more on Jibo, check out the video below.

How Anheuser-Busch Can Beat Craft Beer at Its Own Game

Antedote’s Pete Mortensen wrote an in-depth piece over at Slate exploring the changing beer market and opportunities for big breweries to step into widely untapped spaces where craft breweries can’t.

“America’s industrial breweries have seen better days. Sales of domestic beers have plateaued and even started to show signs of declining. Worse for Big Beer, it seems the new generation of drinkers prefers bottom-shelf value beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon over ostensibly “premium” brews like Budweiser.Using brand alone to differentiate nearly identical light lagers isn’t working anymore.”

— Pete Mortenson for Slate

At antedote we’re always exploring what innovators can learn from the changing world, and this article definitely nails this concept. While the article itself is specifically applicable to big breweries, there’s a bit in it for everyone whatever your craft. To read for yourself, click here.

Leveraging Facebook posts to determine your personality

Leverage Facebook posts

Many tools exist these days to help us quantify ourselves and the data we produce online and in the real world through existing activities. If creatively used, many of these tools have the power to become innovative research tools. I recently came across Five Labs, an app that predicts your personality by analyzing the language you use on Facebook using an artificial intelligence engine.

It makes me think of the role that existing social media data will play in research moving forward, and how we can incorporate this into “human digital context.”

Plus it’s really interesting (and a great use of spider charts). For instance, according to my 10 years of posts, I’m assertive, inventive, sensitive, efficient and friendly (with 75% neuroticism apparently).

While tools like this one might have a long way to go with regards to reliability, if used in conjunction with existing research methods the possibilities are endless.

More on Five Labs from Business Insider.

What not to expect from Maker Faire

Maker Faire

This past weekend I attended the Bay Area Maker Faire along with 130,000 other people. The Maker Faire is also known as the “Greatest Show and Tell on Earth”—probably for lack of better way to describe it in a sentence. In many it was exactly what I expected; there were plenty of robots, 3D printers, entertaining acts, motivational speakers and large crowds fighting to catch a glimpse of all of the above. You could read for days about all the cool things inventors and artists brought to the table.

However, every good event has some element of surprise for first-timers, so as a first-timer myself, I’m going to tell you a bit about what not to expect from Maker Faire.

1. Don’t expect every piece of art or technology to have real-life application. It takes some time to figure out what exactly you are looking at—and sometimes all you can do is simply take it in. Seeing people create magical things with advanced and simple tools was perhaps a glimpse into what is at the heart of someone who makes. There were numerous examples of projects brought into existence, probably because the thought and process brought someone joy.

2. Don’t expect every innovative project to be a piece of art. At Maker Faire you certainly get a sense of the unfinished nature of a project. It’s a reminder that all inventions have plenty of sweat and hard work behind them. Maker Faire is a place to share your messy (but very cool) work in progress.

3.  Don’t expect a division between the DIY and Lego. This is one of the few places you can find machines and homegrown spirulina in the same room getting along—or perhaps a machine growing a plant. Which explains why this event describes the type of person a “maker” and not a type of invention “tech” or “craft.” It doesn’t matter what tools or raw materials you’re working wit, natural or manufactured, everyone’s a maker of some sort and all kinds of makers were on the same level at this event.

4. Don’t expect to see bored kids dragged along by their enthusiastic parents. A lot of the exhibits involved children’s toys, but I was impressed to see equal excitement over 3D printers and knitting. It’s a good reminder that we haven’t yet heard from the next generations, or seen what wonderful things will define them. I’m looking forward to a time when they aren’t known for the selfie and staring at screens all day, but making things in ways we never did as kids—or adults.

It’s rare to have such a clear glimpse into the future. It’s incredibly messy. I’m sure that years down the road I’ll see the cleaned up, polished, useful versions of many of these projects, companies, and works of art, and have an even deeper appreciation for them because of where they started.

So how do all of the unexpected parts of Maker Faire fit together? Even if what some of these people created only exists as a piece of art, maybe it will spark thoughts in another creative mind and feed into something more than art. I’m sure it happens in the reverse—someone else might see your scrappy invention, and be inspired to create a masterpiece from it. Or maybe, Kevin Kelly discussed in his talk, someone very young will be inspired to combine the two and change the world with the tools they see available, as . I’d like to think this is the real story of Maker Faire.

Nespresso VertuoLine: What’s the right selling point?


“Did you see the giant Nespresso pod in Union Square the other week?”

I knew exactly what my colleague Pete was referencing yesterday, as I had in fact seen the giant alien-like pod, been sucked inside, and gladly played the role of an ignorant consumer.

This was not my first exposure to Nespresso’s fairly new VertuoLine (a machine with the original espresso and coffee capabilities), nor was it my second. I’d say it was at least the third hands-on demonstration I had seen. The first time was when I was returning a bag of used Nespresso (OriginalLine) pods to the store. Being a user of the current espresso-only machine, I decided to meander down to the store’s basement and stick around for a demonstration of the new line. I remember a few of the selling points: spinning pod with unique bar code, moves really fast, voila–coffee with crema. I was maybe impressed, but none of this information resonated with me enough to make the jump.

A couple weeks later I had my second run-in with the VertuoLine, this time at a kiosque in the mall when I was picking up some new pods for my Nespresso (OriginalLine). The sales-person sold me on a new type of espresso pod in line with my current favorites, and then asked if I had a moment to stick around for a demonstration of the new VertuoLine. It was pouring down rain outside, and very early in the morning, so it was definitely worth a coffee to sit and listen (and play ignorant). I asked what made it different, and I got the same story: spinning pod with unique bar code, moves really fast, voila–coffee with crema.

If I were to purchase one now I’d have a good story to tell my dinner party guests or my coworkers, but what’s in it for me? Because the coffee factor didn’t appeal to me, there wasn’t a reason to purchase the upgrade…

Until the following week when I had a run-in with the giant pod of all pods. This was my third up-close encounter. I was sucked into the pod with the rest of the crowd in union square, and was greeted with the buzz of dozens of stations set up with VertuoLine experts there to guide passersby through the process of making their own coffee. I made my taste selection, and like any good researcher, once again played completely ignorant. I wanted to learn something new. At first I didn’t… “spinning pod with unique bar code, moves really fast, voila–coffee with crema… but then… the pod dries out so that when you empty out the used pods, you don’t get all that messy sludge.”

Excuse me? What did you say? Suddenly I was transported to that time every week when someone in my office has to empty the bucket full of used pods–which have leaked all over themselves all week, spilled onto the machine parts, and then if we’re not careful, the carpet. It’s really gross and honestly, I finally saw the brilliance of this new machine. Convenience just became even more classy.

I probably wouldn’t buy the VertuoLine; I like my coffee black. Not flavored. Not crema-topped. Not spun. A nice drip brew is all I need to start the day, and a simple Nespresso latte is great after lunch, and saves money and time.

But what do I really hate? Wet coffee grounds and leaky Nespresso pods. So maybe the VertuoLine did solve one problem for me as a current user, but one wasn’t enough to make the upgrade. Because I wasn’t completely sold my next question was, what would it do next? And were there other selling points that I wasn’t exposed to that could have convinced me to make the jump?

Sure, used pods without the mess would be nice, but what about the grating noise the machine makes that interrupts my colleagues who are having a meeting on the nearby couches? What about the fact that the machine still starts if there isn’t enough water to finish the shot? What about when my favorite mug doesn’t fit on the platform? Maybe these are some innovations we’ll see with future machines, but until now, I’m content with my occasional free coffee to-go (in a very cool cup I might add.)

Cold-pressed innovation

I remember having my first green juice. It was the beginning of 2010, and a colleague of mine was doing the Dr. Junger’s Clean Program in an attempt to start the year in a healthy way. During lunch one day, she introduced me to Liquiteria, which at the time was still a singular location in East Village. Walking into the snug store, I was immediately intoxicated by the bright, sweet and slightly bitter fragrance of fresh greens being pressed, and became overwhelmed with excitement looking at the menu of freshly pressed juices. I settled on what would now be considered a basic green juice made from lemon, ginger, kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, celery and cucumber. From the first sip, I was hooked.

Since then, the cold-pressed juice market has exploded with boutique juice shops popping up on every corner in New York, LA and SF, Whole Foods stocking BluePrintCleanse along with other craft brands and Starbuck acquiring and now serving Evolution Fresh juices in their coffee shops. I couldn’t be happier with this development, and have trawled various juice boutiques in cities around the world trying their take on my favorite green drink.

Within the past year, I’ve noticed the brands that have entered the market more recently are approaching it a bit differently and bringing a second way of cold-pressed juice innovation. Moving beyond just health and cleansing benefits, there are now culinary inspired juices touting flavor combinations like beet, blood orange, fennel and shiso leaf, to juice recipes especially designed for your dosha recommending that if you’re vata like me to avoid dense greens like kale in juice, to the more seasonal farm to table approach incorporating local produce like dandelion greens and sugar snap peas currently, to the recently launched first kosher pressed-juice company, Jus.

It’s been interesting to observe how these new players have approached differentiating themselves within the market. The sum of their efforts has certainly grown the category (to $3.4B) and has made it more accessible for people in terms of time and convenience (maybe not financially just yet). Whether it’s been purposeful, these craft brands are segmenting the market in ways that are breaking down barriers like taste or religious food restrictions, while building onto existing beliefs like eating local and/or behaviors – freshly pressed juice cocktails anyone? Some are even creating new consumer benefits like achieving bodily balance. I must say, very nicely played!

With my green juice loving heart and consultant brain, I’ll be curious to see how the pressed juice market continues to innovate and expand.

Innovations of all shapes and sizes that I came across in my travels

Bonne Maman

Clean, simple (and cost effective) single serve jam…

How many times have you fumbled with those circa 1970 tiny square plastic single serve jams, or worse, been subjected to the petri dish communal jam pots? Now no doubt the cynics among you are thinking “hey what about those little glass jars?” Agreed, the mini jars are great, although what about the waste? What about the cost to the proprietor? Someone is paying for that thing.

So I was out for brunch this past weekend and noticed this little pot of jam on the table and thought “what a great example of simple packaging innovation.” Clean, simple, cost effective for the business–and a single serve!

This might not be one of those innovations that wins awards or gets talked about in job interviews, yet I think it is worth a mention. Sometimes the little incremental improvements can make all the difference to the overall experience for the customer and in this case for the small business owner too.

*served at Katy’s Place Carmel

… And a product that promised to combat the effects of jetlag

On a recent trip to Australia I came across 1Above at the airport. It was the first time I had seen a product available that promised to combat the effects of jetlag. The brochure I picked up informed me that the founder, a young New Zealander from memory, came up with the idea after filling two passports before the age of 30 and discovering long haul flying seemed to be getting tougher not easier. Being a too frequent flier myself, I purchased every variant and decided to put it to the test.

Like most people who travel too much, we never have a great deal of time at the airport, so without reading the labels I grabbed the two different sizes that were on shelf and ran to my gate.

Upon boarding the plane, I took a closer look…

The large water bottle option was great; it came ready mixed and had a lid-come-cup which made drinking less medicinal and more pleasurable. The downside: it was kind of expensive, and I could only buy one due to my later plane change and the TSA liquid regulations.

The concentrated bottles were excellent in theory, fit the TSA regulations (under 100mls)–smart–in fact, I had bought several of these so I had a stock supply for future use.

The ingredients are basically a combination of sugar and salt (electrolytes), with a few other vitamins and minerals thrown in. I understand the basic chemistry of our body; I get you need to stay hydrated when flying and a concentrated delivery of electrolytes is better than water alone. That said, it was a lot of money for bunch of electrolytes.

The recommended dose? I needed to drink 6 liters of this stuff to get the desired result. That was a piece of information I wish I had known at point of purchase–there goes my stock supply! And hold on, I would not be able to fit enough of these in my TSA designated clear plastic bag–well that’s an oversight.

I was willing to play though, and pay. Jetlag is tough for me these days and only getting worse. So I settled in and started drinking 1Above. The taste was fine, I had heard from the shop attendant that her boyfriend didn’t like the taste. It wasn’t something you would order in a restaurant, but it didn’t bother me.

I quickly consumed my ready made bottle and then went to mix up one of the concentrated versions – decanting into the large bottle of course – genius. The only downside was the flight attendants were not that keen on giving up that much water, and I was flying business class! Eventually I was successful and by the time I needed to make up the next bottle there had been a change of crew, so it wasn’t as difficult.

I diligently drank the required amount (with frequent bathroom breaks) for the duration of the flight. When I landed I felt more hydrated and I didn’t experience the cracked lips, dry skin or sinuses discomfort that I had experienced in the past. Sleeping pattern? Sadly this drink made absolutely no difference whatsoever. Same old 3am wake-ups for the next week.

Would I buy the product again? Absolutely. Do I think it had any impact on jetlag? Not at all.

This product is ripe for repositioning as a personal care product. In fact I might just contact the owners…

Travel is one of the best ways to discover new innovations–from small incremental improvements in commercial innovation to transforming existing technologies into new product innovation.

Can yogurt go savory?

Beet Yoghurt

Beet Yoghurt

On a recent trip to New York (qual research for one of our global innovation clients) we were doing some store scouting to canvas the latest interesting new innovations. We were excited to come across these new yogurts from one of our favorite New York restaurants, Blue Hill.

These yogurts turn convention on its head and offer a range of savory flavors. Coming in Carrot, Sweet Potato, Beet, Butternut Squash, Tomato and Parsnip these are unlike any yogurts you will have seen before. More details can be found on Blue Hill’s yogurt website

Savory yogurts and ice-cream have been present on the menus and in the kitchens of many of the world’s leading edge restaurants for a number of years now. It is interesting to see this new product launch come from a restaurant rather than one of the large yogurt manufacturers, perhaps this is the start of a new trend? Is this the next Greek yogurt? We’re not sure that the mainstream consumer is ready for savory yogurt but it will be fascinating to see how this new product launch does over the next 12 months.

So that all the team could experience them we bought up a range of flavors to bring back to the office. The Antedote verdict? Actually a lot tastier than we thought they might be. Sadly they are not yet available in San Francisco so we’ll be stocking up again when we are back over on the East Coast.

Digital Innovation

It has been a busy start to the year here at Antedote, we have been out delivering innovation and insight projects across the US, Europe and Asia so the blog has taken a bit of a back seat. However with a week back in the office before I am off on a month long research project I wanted to write a post about Digital Innovation.

One of the benefits of living and working in the technology and innovation hub that is San Francisco is that we experience new business models and ideas before they are rolled out across the rest of the US and the world. We have started to help leading brands connect with some of these new technologies/ start-ups, for example through delivering new activation experiences.

Here are some of the disruptive innovations that we have seen and been using recently:

Good Eggs

This startup aims to bring the famers market to your door through partnering with local producers. Now a number of us here in the Antedote offices are frequent shoppers at Whole Foods and local farmers markets but we have found ourselves moving over to Good Eggs to do a good amount of our weekly shopping. The reason? Fantastically fresh, high quality foods for a lot less than it costs to shop and Whole Foods.

Google Shopping Express

We are among some of the first people to use this new same-day deliver shopping service aimed at disrupting Amazon’s position at the top of the internet shopping podium. So far the experience has been a bit mixed, most of the brands that you can order from are the big store brands – Target, Walgreens, Office Depot and Staples. These are stores that most of us can get to pretty easily and actually don’t need same day delivery from. Personally I would like to see Google incorporate some smaller providers, ones that it takes time to find and shop at.


The next generation on from Uber and Flywheel is Lyft, we are seeing more and more of the pink moustaches hanging from the front of cars in and around the city. Lyft is a ride-sharing service, basically normal people driving others where they want to go. We having quite got round to giving this a shot yet but it is definitely on the list to try. Given that Lyft does not require commercial licenses and insurance, it may well disrupt the taxi/ limousine market on cost alone. Great service would be a bonus!

These are just some of the new disruptive technologies we are seeing everyday, we will write another post soon.

Admap: Books that influenced me

Admap is featuring Adam French and Antedote in the October 2012 issue of the magazine in a feature called “Books that influenced me”. This a monthly feature that highlights industry leaders and the books that influenced them over their careers. 

If you have an Admap subscription you can login here to view the article or see the copy of the article below. We have included the Amazon links in case this article inspires you to revisit any of these great books. 

Title: Books that influenced me
Author(s): Adam French
Source: Admap
Issue: October 2012

Books that influenced me

Adam French


Adam French founded the San Francisco-based innovation consultancy Antedote in 2012. Before starting this
business, he founded the US division of the global brand consultancy Clear. He has also worked in innovation
and brand consultancy at WPP. He brings brand and innovation strategy together with expertise in qualitative
and quantitative insight.

1. Feersum endjinn

by Iain M. Banks, published by Orbit, 1995

This was among the first science fiction books that I read, and at first it presented a challenge, with Banks
writing Bascule’s chapters in phonetic prose. However, as the plot unfolds, this puzzle helps move the reader’s
mind firmly into a dying universe and the four characters’ quest to find the Feersum Endjinn that will save what
remains of humanity. This book sparked a deep curiosity in me for what the future might hold, something that
has become part of the work that I do every day.

2. The art of innovation

by Tom Kelley, published by Profile Books, 2002

When I first read this, innovation was still a relatively unknown field that I had been working in for a few years. The description
of the culture of entrepreneurship and innovative thinking has been influential in my own beliefs as to how to create a culture
of innovation for my team. When I re-read this book, it reminds me why I have spent the last 15 years working in innovation:
the challenges that we get to solve make this the most extraordinary way to make a living.

3. Moneyball

by Michael Lewis, published by WW Norton & Co, 2003

Though this has recently been made into a film starring Brad Pitt, this book was recommended to me by a business analyst I
was working with about nine years ago. What fascinates me about this book is the fact that, in the space of one season, the
way that an entire sport worked was redefined. It reminds that when we look at a challenge through a different lens, we can
create something new.

4. The art of the start: The time-tested, battle-hardened guide for anyone starting anything

by Guy Kawasaki, published by Portfolio, 2004

When I started Clear in New York, it was my first time running a business and I sought guidance from people I
knew, as well as books. This book really stood out for me in the guidance that Guy gives, and helped form the
business. In particular, I take his advice about ‘being a mensch’; it’s what I aspire to be as a leader of a
business, to do right by people.

5. Freakonomics

by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, published by Penguin, 2007

I first bought this book at an airport. Little did I know that, rather than sleeping on the transatlantic flight, I would spend it
finishing this book. By applying economic theory to a wider range of diverse topics, the authors uncovered fascinating insights.
This approach served to remind me to look at the world differently and to apply different disciplines and thinking styles to a

6. Managing brand equity 

by David Aaker, published by Jossey Bass, 1991

At the very start of my career, my manager gave me this book with the advice to read it and learn from the
thinking. Though the examples are now a bit dated, it still remains the cornerstone upon which my knowledge
and thinking around brand strategy was built.

Published in Admap, October 2012 ©Warc

Innovation in print media

When is a print ad more than a print ad? When it’s the start of a revolution.

A friend sent me this advertisement that some clever folks at Ogilvy have created for Volkswagen. It’s a fantastic example of an advert actually being the thing that it is selling in a very clever and impactful way.

Check it out and see what you think.

Cool stuff I have seen and other innovations: Self Driving Google Car

As a child growing up watching The Jetsons I looked forward to the day when I could strap on a jetpack to get around town or use my flying car to commute to and from work. You can imagine my disappointment when none of these things became my reality and I was forced to accept the humdrum of driving myself to work each day in a plain old regular car.

Google CarAnd then, on my way to work this morning, feeling particularly tired and wishing I had a chauffeur, the self-driving Google car drives past.

How brilliant is this idea? A car that takes care of the driving so you can sit back and relax or better still take a nap and still make it to work on time!

The first thing I noticed about the car was the camera/wind turbine looking thing on the top of the roof; this is in fact a LIDAR sensor. This sensor is a part of a system of sensors and intelligent software that combine to locate the vehicle, keep the car at the speed limit and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. And of course there is an override system for a human driver to take control of the vehicle if desired.

The next thing I noticed was a person in the drivers sit, at first I was a little let down, “what is the point if I have to sit in the drivers seat anyway” and then with a little research I discovered the reason was not due to the limitations of the car but in fact down to legislation. All state laws are based on the assumption that a human being is operating the vehicle and as such a driver must be in the drivers sit at all times.

From what I read there are no plans for commercializing self driving vehicles just yet, although I can endure my commute safe in the knowledge that innovations are afoot and perhaps it will not be too long before I will be kicking back in my self driving Google car, reading the paper or taking a nap on my way to work.

For more information check out the official Google blog: