New York. New York.

Over the years New York has built up a larger-than-life repuation: from Broadway to Wall Street, the Yankees to the Juilliard, chances are if something big is going down, it’s happening in New York.

With that in mind, we recently headed there to see how the #NewEraBiz was blossoming in the Big Apple.

By #NewEraBiz we mean the new-era business, the one that’s designed to be open and collaborative in nature and make things move. The type of business whose collective spirit inspires others around it and ultimately helps form an ecosystem of brands and partners who are united by a common thread.

After doing several trips last year to explore a series of exciting new developments in the collaborative economy (yet to be defined), it was exciting to get back on the road and experience what’s happening first-hand.

If you have read any of our blog in the past, you will have maybe noticed that there are three key industries we have been focused on for industry-specific posts:

  • Finance: which includes crowdinvesting and the #NewFinance movement

+ The Redistribution of Dealflow

  • Food: which relates to organics and the #realfood revolution

+ A New Era of FOOD

  • Fashion: which relates to next-generation materials and #sustfash

+ Avant Garde: Moving Fashion Forward

Why these three?

Part of it is personal preference and part of it is collective importance. Of course there are numerous other exciting industries and important trends happening at the moment, but these three in particular really need to be redefined and reinvented before we are going to see real progress and ‘economic growth’ again.

That’s because everyone needs to eat (well!), (almost) everyone gets dressed in the morning and everyone needs to be bankrolled if they want to start a business. In a system where Big Ag dictates what we eat, Haute Fashion defines what’s stylish and Big Banks decide who gets money, you get big problems.

So what’s moving and shaking with the #NewEraBiz in New York?

FOOD is happening, and in a big way. It was certainly the focus on this trip.

#RealFood NYC

Whole Foods

There are several Whole Foods located in Manhattan (probably 5 or 6), all of them huge, and all of them are packed. The most reputable real-food market in the big-grocery business recently made headlines when they announced that all products in their stores would be GMO-labeled by 2018. Evidence that people are becoming increasingly conscious about what they eat can be seen right away when you walk into a Whole Foods in NYC:

Cooperatives

While Whole Foods (many times referred to as ‘Whole Paycheque’) is great if you fit into the affluent-urbanite category, the reality is that the majority of people just can’t afford to pay those types of prices for their food on a daily basis. Which is why it is exciting to see Food Cooperatives (Coops) emerging in many middle-class neighborhoods. One in particular, the Park Slope People’s Coop in Park Slope, Brooklyn was full of everything you could imagine when it comes to real food – local produce, organic ingredients, whole-grain baking, etc. – and the prices on several items were about half of what you would find in a Whole Foods.

Coops function differently than traditional grocery chains. To be a member, and therefore purchase goods at the Coop, you must put in a volunteer shift every month and pay an annual membership fee. Thus Coops don’t pay the same labour expenses as a traditional grocery chain. They also markup their items at a fraction of what traditional chains would, and in many cases, depending on how the Cooperative is setup, will redistribute profits to the members.

The Coop structure is a very promising development in the #collaborativeco and something we will be researching in greater depth during the months ahead.

Outdoor Markets

Outdoor markets were everywhere. In Manhattan, in Brooklyn, everywhere. And they were packed, everywhere.

The reason for this is simple, as the real-food revolution is all about bringing the farmer’s food directly to the table.

Farmers and food vendors are able to take their product directly to the consumer, which helps the farmers cut out the middleman. From a consumer’s perspective, it is very reassuring to not only see the people making the food, but to hear their stories. In a world where food has been commoditized, among other things, outdoor markets bring everything back to earth.

The hallmark of the NYC outdoor markets is organic everything – from slushies to sandwiches – and an increasing array of biodiversity in crops like beans, tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes to die for) and others.

Artisan Vendors

Artisan is a buzzword that food-marketing mavens have definitely caught onto, so watch out. At the core, however, it relates to the craft of making or manufacturing the food to the highest of its potential.

One example is chocolate. Thanks to the whole industrialization and globalization of food, many ‘chocolate bars’ on shelves aren’t actually chocolate anymore. They have been cut with every filler, sweetener and artificial flavour imaginable and labeled chocolate bar. That’s why companies like Mast Brothers have come to fruition:

In the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, they handcraft chocolate bars using the best beans from around the world.

Artisan is about bringing food from the source to you. So the story is a key part of every artisan vendor’s strategy – if they don’t have a story, they aren’t artisan. Luckily NYC is teeming with artisan vendors like Mast who are the real deal.

#SustFash NYC

After spending quite a bit of time Europe last year researching the New Era of Fashion, it was quite an interesting to contrast the action over there to New York.

+ A New Era of Fashion

While New York is a big and very important fashion market, they are definitely far behind Europe when it comes to ‘sustainable fashion.’

This can be seen not only in the lack of consciousness about #sustfash for the average New Yorker, but also by the lack of marketing initiatives on the businesses part, meaning it’s not top-of-mind for consumers (yet). After a long stroll through the Fashion District, there was very little evidence of any ‘sustainable fashion’ marketing and whatever we came across was put up by brands we were already familiar with. Certainly there are no brands targeting the young generation, a big missed opportunity, especially when you compare the ‘sustainable fashion’ movement to organic food.

On the other hand, there are many young artisan and upstart designers who are coming to market in the US with a ‘sustainable’ focus. Additionally, there are a few cool initiatives being done to knit together these emerging designers and give them more resources to move to market. Overall though, it looks like NYC has some work to do in the #sustfash market, especially compared to #realfood.

#NewFinance NYC

Only this year did we start writing a little bit about #NewFinance in the US.

+ Funding the Niche

That’s because the big story was, and continues to be, the rolling out of the JOBS Act, which will effectively legalize everyday Americans to make equity ‘crowd’ investments in early-stage American startups and small businesses – at least that’s what it set out to achieve.

Undoubtedly crowdinvesting is the future frontier for finance, but each country is taking their own approach to it. While the UK has focused more on a case-by-case basis (ie. Seedrs), the US has opted for a full-legalization approach, which is causing delays and a lot of ambiguity.

+ The Seedrs Report

Now many are saying that the JOBS Act is so watered down that it will be up to States to come up with their own regulations to legalize true crowdinvesting. Until something moves in one direction or another, however, the real stories related to #NewFinance will be happening outside of the Big Apple.

Overall

NYC provided a great opportunity to see the #NewEraBiz coming to life, in food anyways. To actually see and feel this change is very exciting because a of its magnitude, which will eventually flip ‘business’ on its head. The tides are turning and the Bull is no longer behind Wall Street.

And:

  • While major fashion brands continue to plunder ecosystems and drive species to extinction to make designer clothes & handbags, we need to wear our values on our sleeves.

  • While major banks continue to hide behind their bodyguards and funnel money from public sources into private ventures, we need to put our money where it matters.

  • While mega food brands of the world continue to pump hormones and chemicals into our food and call it wholesome, we need to pull up our chair to a different table.

Because like Socrates said:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

By focusing on the new, and truly collaborating, we can create a whole new era of business and make it an unforgettable journey in the process. It will take new business models, strategies and everything else, but there’s no use trying to pretend anymore that the old way still has legs.

The summer months provide a great time to chill out, sit on the patio and think things through. So take advantage because September, the time to start fresh, will be here in a heartbeat.


+ BMi: FOOD
+ Time For BMi


PLAN – the Business Model


+ BMi Services

(Almond) milk on cereal for breakfast in the morning. A (bean) burger for lunch. A stirfry on (brown) rice for dinner. Topped off with some (fair-trade) dark chocolate and a glass of (sulphite-free) wine. Welcome to the new groove of food.

Thanks to an explosion of next-generation producers, a renewed focus on food education and a deeper awareness about food in general, the creation of an entirely new food ecosystem has begun. And this isn’t some hippie-driven hullabaloo, it’s a real-food revolution, and it goes beyond organic.

While there are no shortage of headlines in the news to show why certain parts of our food ecosystem need to be radically reinvented (ie. Ikea horse meatballs), there are deeper reasons as to why it’s necessary and why it is gaining traction so quickly.

It’s based on a need for diversity.

What do we mean by diversity?

Humans thrive in diverse environments. Regardless of the specific context, it’s a law that can be applied almost universally to every facet of life. We need to have choices (not too many), and to be able to have a set of choices requires diversity. Strip away diversity and you very quickly start running into problems.

And that’s where we are at today. We have a food system that is dominated by multi-nationals and agricultural giants (Big Ag). These major food companies have a bigger R&D budget for frozen pizzas than most market players would make in an entire year. As a result, there are ten multinationals who control the entire top-tier of consumer brands.

Graphic sourced from the Huff Post, and the article has 25K+ Likes …

Do these multinationals care about diversity and a well-rounded food ecosystem?

No.

They care about sales and profits. After all, it’s not primarily for our benefit that they insert polyphenols and Omega 3’s into their products. And the sugar-free, fat-free and calorie-free offerings on the shelves weren’t developed to help people eat better. It’s all part of a diversion to make people feel like whatever they’re eating is great no matter what it is they are eating(!).

JIF, owned by J.M. Smucker, added anchovy and sardine oil to their PB so that you can get more Omega 3-s! Ironically, Smucker was part of an effort lead by Monsanto to crush Prop 37 in the US on GMO-food labelling.

And so instead of having a diverse food system where farmers flourish and consumers chow down on freshly-picked offerings, we live in a world where food is day-traded on world markets and sold in major supermarkets at razor-thin margins. Producers get squeezed, fresh products are sold at high premiums and Big Ag drives the agenda.

But all this is changing, and fast. The new groove of food has arrived. What started off as a small ‘organic’ movement a decade ago has now become a massive real-food revolution hitting all levels of the food chain.

Farmers implementing new (non-GMO) cultivation methods are experiencing amazing yields. Brands who may have begun their ascent into food markets as organic are starting to become household names. Mainstream supermarkets are expanding their natural sections at a rapid pace. And big moves are being made.

Last month, Whole Foods announced that they would require GMO-labeling from all of their suppliers within five years. What started off as a non-profit project (the non-GMO project) will now become a business requirement for any company that wants to list their products in North America’s leading natural and organic food retailer.

Transparent labeling. Whole ingredients. Supply-chain localization. Rather than it being a rarity that something we eat would be grown and produced naturally, it will soon become an expectation. And it goes far beyond organic; it’s about putting delicious food on the table that people don’t even need to question:

Did they use a lot of pesticides? Where was it grown? Is it GMO? Are the ingredients real?

Soon enough, these won’t be questions that circulate through peoples’ minds every time they want to purchase food. All information will be right on the label, and anybody selling food that isn’t organic, non-GMO and real-food certified will be shipping their products to Mars.

And those who get this will reap the rewards for decades to come.

Back in the fall, in our blog ‘A New Era of Food,’ we looked at a few enterprises who are on the edge of this movement:

+ A New Era of Food

These are the Market Beacons who, in our opinion, are moving the dial ahead at the top level. But every country, city and community has their own set trailblazers who are setting the new standard. Food has so much cultural and social significance that what’s considered a seismic shift in one region may not even register in another.

Of course there is a lot of work that needs to be done to increase real-food production, educate consumers and develop new products. But it’s happening, quickly. So throw on a pot of (shade-grown) coffee and grab a few (whole wheat) cookies, because the new groove of food is rolling into a town near you.


+ BMi: FOOD
+ Time For BMi


PLAN – the Business Model