Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

The iFood terminal at Nordiska Kompaniet‘s food hall lets customers hook up their iPod and download audio recipes. The process is described in five simple steps (we couldn’t resist including the Swedish original): 1) Docka – Plug in, 2) Ladda ner – Download, 3) Handla – Purchase, 4) Lyssna – Listen, and 5) Laga – Cook. After choosing from a wide range of recipes and downloading audio instructions to their iPod or other mp3 player, shoppers can purchase all necessary items from a colour-coded deli area. iFood is an exclusive cooperation between Nordiska Kompaniet/NK, an upmarket Stockholm warehouse with an equally upscale food hall, and Ridderheims, a manufacturer and distributor of fine meats and delicatessen products. The concept is part of a larger effort by Ridderheims to engage consumers beyond the deli section. iFood will also include an online food community – ifood.se – which has yet to be launched and will encourage members to share and collect recipes and cooking tips. Letting customers download information to a device that many of them are already plugged into when they go grocery shopping, makes sense. It’s a clever way to extend a food brand from supermarkets and kitchens to a personal device, especially if customers download a bunch of recipes at once, and then browse through them on their iPods while commuting from work to grocery store, figuring out what to eat (and buy) that night. For another recent dock & download example, check out Schiphol Airport’s Fuel for Travel. More of these to follow everywhere consumers shop and go? Based in San Francisco, Greenway Maid is an environment-friendly house and office cleaning service. The company has a staff of professionals trained in green cleaning methods, experienced in busting dust and dirt with non-toxic, biodegradable products. Instead of a standard vacuum cleaner, Greenway uses an HEPA vacuum, which prevents dust and particles from being blown back into the air. Other products used include Soapworks non-chlorine bleach, diluted tea tree oil, baking soda and Murphy’s pure vegetable oil soap to give hardwood floors a super shine. Not only is the green approach good for the environment, non-toxic cleaning products are also better for children, pets and of course the cleaners that handle the products every day. Much like Brooklyn-based ZENhome Cleaning, which we covered a few months ago, Greenway Maid has found a great way to stand out in a prosaic industry. The green-clean concept should work well all over the world. Time to set up a respected, well-branded franchise organisation? As reported in this week’s issue of BusinessWeek, Illy is taking on Starbucks. A few years ago, Illy defined a handful of Illy Bar Concepts: the Core Bar is situated in historic centers, and functions as a meeting point that expresses the culture and the daily life of its location. Landscape Bars are set in busier areas, such as shopping malls or museums, and are meant to provide a restorative break. Transit Bars are spacious bars for travellers, in stations or airports; Community Bars serve regular customers in residential or semi-central areas; and Corner Bars are stylish, open-plan affairs offering fast service for quick consumption. Last year, Illy announced that its line of concept bars would continue to expand under a new brand: Espressamente. Over a hundred cafes have opened everywhere from Rome, Munich and Oslo to Sydney, Tokyo and Shanghai, all under Italian design, led by architects Luca Trazzi, Claudio Silvestrin, and Paola Navone. Fast growth countries are France and China. The United States, home of the Banana Coconut Frappuccino, isn’t on the roll-out list. Yet. Its first careful forays are temporary ‘Illy Gallerias’ in New York City: SoHo last fall, and the Time Warner Center this fall. Unlike Starbucks, Illy is focusing purely on high quality coffee. Forget being spaces, where consumers can park themselves with their MacBooks and Venti Lattes — Espressamente is all about a perfect shot of dark elixir. With rapid expansion plans, this means plenty of opportunity for franchise-minded entrepreneurs. It also shows that innovation never stops: next up, how about the inevitable uber premium coffee chain that will get away with charging 12 dollar for out of this world lattes? It’s all about upgrading the experience these days, not to mention upgraded margins. One to watch. Vancouver-based Jorg & Olif sell Dutch bikes to Canadian urban cyclists. The two-year-old company took a classic design and added Japanese hub gears and drum brakes to tackle North American cities (i.e. cities that aren’t utterly flat). Aside from that modification, Jorg & Olif bikes are utterly old-fashioned: heavy and black. A strong rear carrier handles extra baggage, and a woven basket is an optional extra. Saddle and handlebars are positioned for upright riding, which allows bikers a safer view of traffic and a better view of the scenery rolling by. The bicycle’s enclosed chain and gear mechanism make it possible to wear work clothes while commuting. The bikes also come with lights, mudguards, splash flaps and skirting: no need to wear Spandex for a trip to the market 😉 Jorg & Olif, which is the only company in North America to sell Dutch city bikes, is a firm believer in the slow life. “After all, it’s not about getting from A to B; it’s enjoying the in-between.” Their bicycles, sourced from a small traditional factory northeast of Amsterdam, are priced from CAD 875 for a 1-speed Oma (hers) or Opa (his) version. Three and eight speed versions are also available. The company currently only ships within Canada, and operates from a gallery-like lifestyle store in Vancouver. Fuelled by a desire for sustainable mobility (in downtown Vancouver, about 33 per cent of people travel by foot and bicycle, approximately 28 percent take transit, and 39 per cent drive), Jorg & Olif’s bikes are a good example of how nouveau niche works. While the masses will probably stick to their mountain bikes, profits can be made from catering to a niche market that prefers retro chic. P.S. We like bikes! Check out our previous articles on two-wheeled locomotion: girls on bikes, city bike schemes, hot bikes, Indian bikes, bikevertising, and bikes for Africa. Launched yesterday at Schiphol Airport, Fuel for Travel lets consumers download travel guides, music, audio books, tv shows and movies to their MP3 players and other digital devices. Located in Schiphol’s Departure Lounges 1 and 2, the Fuel for Travel features listening and viewing stations for travellers to browse digital content. Once they’ve found what they want, they can dock their device, pay by credit or debit card, and download the material. Pricing is similar to that of online music and video downloads. A wide range of devices is supported, including MP3 and MP4 players, phones, and PDAs. Unfortunately, iPod owners are out of luck: due to Apple’s DRM protection, video content can’t be downloaded to the ubiquitous players. Fuel for Travel is a partnership between Talpa (a Dutch multimedia content provider), Samsung Electronics, and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Samsung provided technological know-how, and also sells players and phones at the Fuel for Travel shop. Content providers include Red Bull, MTV/Nickelodeon, Radio 538, Audiocitytours, and Commodore. According to an airport spokesperson, members of test groups were especially interested in destination travel guides. Schiphol, which is managing the project, hopes that offering digital content will add to a more enjoyable travel experience for passengers. Letting customers create their own in-flight entertainment package makes perfect sense for travel hubs. One to partner with and set up at an airport or train station near you? Just try and get Apple on board 😉 A beautiful addition to our previous urban farming spottings, Herbi is a fully adjustable hydroponic herb rack that lets urban farmers grow their favourite herbs on their kitchen counter. Up to six plant ‘silos’ can be connected to a central control unit, which has water and nutrient containers and takes care of the plants. Fill the containers, and Herbi operates for a full month without any tending to. Every month, when nutrients or water are running low, Herbi communicates its needs by lighting a light blue LED behind the corresponding icon on the Herbi control unit. Designed by Michael Kritzer for plusminuszero, the Japanese manufacturer of minimalist household goods, Herbi is characterized by simplicity and clean lines. The appliance’s shape and functionality were inspired by old wheat and grain silos that are spread throughout the rural plains of America. Herbi is currently only available through plusminuszero. As its tagline says, a small South African manufacturer of upmarket cookies and brownies is “creating opportunity, one bite at a time.” Khayelitsha is one of South Africa’s largest townships, located on the outskirts of Capetown. Its inhabitants are locked in a constant struggle against poverty, unemployment and violence. Two years ago, Alicia Polak, a former investment banker, founded The Khayelitsha Cookie Company (KCC). Ms Polak wanted to offer more than monetary aid, and decided to help the township’s women build a sustainable living. She chose cookies because they’re a simple product, and baking is a skill that’s easy to teach. KCC now employs 11 women who were formerly unemployed. Since joining KCC, they’ve been trained in baking, packing, labelling and customer service. To ensure the company’s longevity, great emphasis is placed on quality and production standards. The brand’s upscale cookies and brownies are sold to South African hotels, restaurants and coffee houses. The Khayelitsha Cookie Company expects to break even soon, and Ms Polak hopes to make her employees part-owners in the business. Great example of using entrepreneurial skills to help alleviate poverty and unemployment in a sustainable manner, and one that would work well in many parts of the world. Ms Polak is actually considering bringing the cookie concept to disadvantaged parts of the United States. Care to lend her a hand? In Turkey, online music store MuziPlay has forged itself a larger market by selling prepaid music cards. Much like prepaid telephone cards, ‘MuziKarts’ are available from newspaper stands and small shops. After activating a code on the card, customers can download and play mp3s using the company’s proprietary MuziPlayer. Cards are available in denominations of YTL 3, 5 and 10 (EUR 1.50, 2.50, 5.00/USD 1.95, 3.25, 6.50). Sounds like a winner for countries where the growth of broadband internet is outpacing adoption of credit cards. The sachet marketing approach to selling songs should also appeal to children. Although Apple sells prepaid iTunes Music Store gift cards through Target stores in the US and a select number of retailers worldwide, distribution through convenience stores and newsstands makes more sense for modestly priced cards. One to copy and fast-forward to other markets? Related concepts: prepaid privacy and prepaid computing. While suburban households across the country are welcoming fix-and-freeze dinners to their tables, an urban version of the concept just opened at 63rd and Third in New York. Since New York real estate prices don’t allow for huge communal kitchens, Really Cool Foods has altered the prep kitchen model into ‘component cooking’. Customers select a recipe, grab the colour-coded components (vegetables, meats, sauces, etc), and get cooking. “Prepped in our kitchen, cooked in yours.” In 20 minutes or less. Ingredients are organic, and there’s a wide variety of recipes. Besides component cooking, Really Cool Foods also stocks a selection of high-end groceries, including organic pet food. A Small Bites section offers freshly made, all-natural baby food. And, this is the Upper East Side, after all — Really Cool Foods also delivers Hamptons Hampers to New Yorkers’ homes or straight to the Jitney. A tour of the store can be viewed on Code.TV. There are very few services, even relatively new ones, that can’t be upgraded, or in this case, Upper East Sided. Something to keep in mind when you have plans to introduce this concept to the rest of the world? Offering “intelligent supercar ownership,” écurie25 is a club that gives members the right to drive fine automobiles for 30-40 days per year. Like NetJets does for private jets, écurie25 takes care of the costs and trouble associated with outright ownership; members don’t have to worry about depreciation, insurance and servicing. Customers can buy either 300 (GBP 4.500) or 600 (GBP 7.950) points per year, which they can trade in for their choice of cars. The ‘supercars’ are divided into three categories: F1, F2 and F3. F2 cars include the Porsche Boxster S and the TVR Sagaris. Taking one of these out for a spin on a weekday in October costs 8 points. A three-day weekend in August goes for 85 points. F1 cars include the Aston Martin Vantage and DB9, Bentley Continental and Ferrari F430 Spider. And for the acceleration of a lifetime, the most inexpensive F3 class includes British-built speed demon Ariel Atom. As described in James Twitchell’s Living It Up, people aren’t shopping for goods as much as they are for an identity. So it makes complete sense that some consumers are trading ownership for partial ownership, and the greater freedom and choice that it brings. (Can’t choose between a Vantage and a Spider? Have both! 😉 Read more about the luxury market in trendwatching.com’s briefings on massclusivity and uber-premium. And for a related automobile club idea, check out Five star hotel for cars.