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Nov 10, 2020    Burn Book

Apeel a Day Keeps the Produce at Safeway


People always say one bad apple spoils the whole barrel, but not too many people follow up with ‘Why did the apple go bad?’

Do we think we know the answer already (things just go bad sometimes?) or do we not ask because we are afraid/ we realize we don’t know and we’ve never asked?

Anyhow, the human psyche is a topic for another time (like what we wrote here on CreativePool or here on UpCity…). What we really want to focus on here, as the best ad agency in Austin, is the answer, which our startup-stalking habits guided us to.

Bleak Stats, Of Course

Most people have probably heard this statistic once or twice, but don’t think much about it: Somewhere between 25 and 40% of food is wasted annually (USDA). Even on the lower end, that’s a lot. And in fact, it’s a myth that the world doesn’t produce enough food to feed everyone– therefore ending global hunger (in theory).

So without getting into the politics of ALL the reasons we can’t end global hunger, we’re taking a look this week at a startup that makes a first step: by reducing food waste by making produce have a longer shelf life. The startup is Apeel. They began with a Bill & Melinda Gates grant in 2012 and have $30M in new funding this year, primarily from IFC.

True, at first, the vegan Californian in me was skeptical of what was being put on produce to make it last much longer. Does no one remember that horrific time lapse of a fresh burger being left out next to a McDonald’s burger and the McD burger NEVER going bad??

But lo and behold, it looks like Apeel’s (like an extra peel/coating on a piece of produce) method is (as far as is being disclosed) sustainable and plant-based– taking advantage of the exact same compounds already found in many peels, seeds, and skins of produce. That’s pretty cool.

‘Zillennial-loved staples’ is not something I thought I would ever type…

And, finally to the main point here, we noticed something really awesome about their branding. It just so happens that we read this morning that, of the two out of five startups that succeed, impact-driven founders do the best. Combine that with Gen Zs and Millennials’ love of corporate social responsibility (CSR), Apeel made a smart move having their story so up-front and personal in their brand marketing strategy. Boasting their ‘all about sustainability’ and story of sparking this idea while listening to a podcast on global hunger, their brand is looking more and more like Zillennial-loved staples like Brandless, Glossier, and REI (not counting supergiants like Instagram and Spotify). And though they aren’t the first produce-centric startup around that the same generations love (HelloFresh and other meal delivery subscriptions), they are the first to focus so heavily on their brand story.

Future’s So Bright… Right?

As we’ve said before, all brands don’t need an ad, but a story. It needs truth, passion, and realness. We think the future looks bright for this baby startup, so long as they don’t try to hide any socially irresponsible, or possible un-organic, practices underneath the veil. They may see huge buying power by targeting shopping moms on Facebook (you know, after winning over the execs at Dole and Whole Foods), but brand loyalists may very well come from the CSR-obsessed youngins (if you ask us, which you should, we’re a top naming firm and branding agency in Austin, TX, and the world).

We need a big button in the office that says “Now that’s good branding” … even if we do hit it just to congratulate ourselves all the time. Here’s to 2020 not being a complete 10 for 10 garbage fest of failure, and to inspiring startups making the world a better place, one good branding strategy at a time.

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