A majority of young adults in America now live at home with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression. Millions of school children are engaged only in remote learning. The continued spread of Covid-19 means that most of us are working from home, if at all, and limited in our ability to get out of the house and socialize. Almost all of us are losing our minds as we enter the eighth month of a global pandemic that has utterly upended our lives – with no end in sight.
Look no further than these 5 innovative, health conscious, adult-oriented products that are designed to alleviate stress and provide you with some well-deserved fun, relaxation, and relief during a difficult moment in world history: Simply Gum all-natural gums and mints, Alter Eco sustainable chocolate, Wandering Bear coffee, Monday Gin non-alcoholic beverage, and Medterra CBD products. The founders also share how Covid-19 has impacted their businesses, how they have pivoted, and what they’re doing to help.
· Simply Gum – All-natural gums and mints
Simply Gum is the only all-natural chewing gum made with just a few simple ingredients and no artificial sweeteners. The brand offers a variety of 100% plastic-free, aspartame-free, vegan, non-GMO, and Kosher-certified gum and mints formulated with real flavors. For functional product-seeking adults, they also offer gums and mints enhanced with caffeine.
Covid-19 has significantly impacted Simply Gum. Like many other businesses, they’ve seen a large increase in e-commerce and so have shifted resources accordingly. They’ve also noticed that with people staying at home, there has been a movement towards larger bulk and family size consumer packaged foods, so adding a bulk pack became a priority. In addition, Simply Gum makes all their gum domestically at a factory in Brooklyn, New York. Being in the epicenter during the beginning of the pandemic meant they had to make a number of changes in operations in order to remain open. The team stepped up to protect essential manufacturing employees.
Founder and CEO Caron Proshan first created Simply Gum in 2014, after realizing that regular gum is made of a plastic base (hidden in the term “gum base” on the label) and is filled with artificial substances like aspartame and BHT. She began experimenting in her apartment kitchen, concocting batches of her own recipes for over a year. Once she had the product, she started selling door-to-door in NYC. Her first store was the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. Fast forward to today, and Simply Gum is sold in thousands of stores across the country, including all Whole Foods nationally, where it is the top-selling gum.
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Proshan says, “It’s important to have realistic expectations – that is, you can’t assume that the next job or career is going to be all glamour and easy success. Work is hard. It always will be. The key is to find something you love doing, something that makes you excited to get up, something that will make all the hard work utterly and undeniably worth it.”
· Alter Eco – Sustainable chocolate
Sustainable chocolate brand Alter Eco has just launched the first-ever line of grass-fed milk chocolates. With three flavors – Grass Fed Milk, Grass Fed Milk with Salted Almonds, and Grass Fed Milk with Rice Crunch – this line contains Peruvian cocoa sourced from fair trade co-ops. The grass-fed cows have access to the outdoors 365 days a year for periods twice as long as USDA Certified Organic standards.
Alter Eco, a certified B-Corporation, was founded on principles of sustainability, regenerative agriculture, and aggressive agroforestry to offset carbon emissions, increase biodiversity, diversify farmer income, and positively impact the ecosystem. Since 2008, Alter Eco has planted over 30,000 trees in the Peruvian Amazon and offset the carbon of the entire company through its reforestation and conservation projects. The brand also aims to reduce waste with its compostable and recyclable packaging.
“Every facet of our business has completely changed due to coronavirus,” says Mike Forbes, the CEO of Alter Eco. For the executive team working remotely, the company offers virtual weekly yoga, team movies, daily contests, and frequent team huddles. Since Alter Eco has direct and long-standing relationships with its farmers, the company has worked to give funds to protect these people and their families, in addition to making donations to farmers in Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Alter Eco is making sure warehouse employees are safe by changing the workplace layout and processes to maintain social distancing while increasing the frequency of sanitation. The company also has provided large donations of chocolate to the essential workers on the front lines at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA.
The good news is people are buying chocolate because it’s comforting and delicious. The chocolate industry as a whole has seen a 21% increase in sales since March 2020. Alter Eco’s overall sales are up overall and online sales have doubled.
“Pioneering a sustainable supply chain has taken a lot of creativity, innovation and versatility,” says Forbes. “I think we are using that same muscle to react to the coronavirus. There are risks, definitely some unknowns, but I believe there will be improvements to our business in the long term that we can’t even see yet.”
· Wandering Bear – Strong coffee
While the market for ready-to-drink coffee market already was set to skyrocket through 2022, the demand definitely was accelerated by Covid-19. Wandering Bear was the first coffee brand to put cold brew on tap in a box. Prior to March 2020, it could be found amongst more than 2,000 corporate office spaces across the U.S. Then the pandemic hit, and the corporate sales model and multi-serve SKUs – which previously made up more than 55% of Wandering Bear’s revenue stream – ground to a halt as stay-at-home orders went into effect. With the majority of consumers now at home, the company was forced to pivot, and quickly.
Wandering Bear rapidly shifted its focus on direct-to-consumer growth by offering more products to be shipped to the consumer’s door. The company’s recyclable ready-made coffee carton, recyclable K-cup coffee pods, and ground coffee are available now on their website, on Amazon, and by monthly subscription.
“This year has been both the most challenging and the most exciting year that we’ve been in business,” says Matt Bachmann, the CEO and cofounder of Wandering Bear. “With the pandemic, sales quickly went to zero, have stayed there, and are not showing signs of returning anytime soon. We had to adjust and made a commitment early on to recast our business as a direct-to-consumer, e-commerce company. We consolidated 9 months of product innovation into 9 weeks, using our home kitchens as testing labs. We realigned roles and trained the team in new skills. And in August, we relaunched the new site and new products suited for the at-home coffee occasion.”
· Monday Gin – Non-alcoholic beverage
Monday Gin CEO and Cofounder Chris Boyd was out on the town with friends celebrating his birthday a few years back, enjoying some terrific gin cocktails the bartender was making, when he stopped and switched to water. When his friends asked why, he answered, “Because tomorrow is Monday and I have sh*t to do, and I want to do it well!” Curiosity sparked at that moment. “Why can’t I have proper adult cocktails without the alcohol so I can keep on enjoying tonight and be sharp in the morning?” he wondered. A few weeks later, Monday Gin was born.
The company has had its share of challenges since the pandemic started. Navigating a start-up through its first phases of growth comes with its own set of difficulties as it stands. Add Covid-19 on top of that, and the challenges only pile up. But Boyd has remained optimistic, seeing the situation as an opportunity. “We’re pivoting as needed, doing what it takes to meet our customers where they are – which is at home – and pouring them a proper drink while we’re at it,” says Boyd.
The pandemic has definitely left people feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. “In difficult times, we want to have something familiar and comfortable to enjoy. In the normal world, this happens at 5 o’clock with a glass of something special. But consumers are realizing that it happens a lot earlier these days. And the drink doesn’t have to be alcoholic! Enter Monday Gin – liquids like ours that provide the look, feel, and most importantly, the taste of your favorite spirit without the negative consequences,” says Boyd.
· Medterrra – Hemp and CBD products
Medterra is a leader in high-quality hemp products – ranging from tinctures, capsules, supplements, gummies, and topicals to pet products – offered at an affordable price. In 2014, the Farm Bill made hemp and CBD legal in the U.S. for the first time since 1937. CEO Jay Hartenbach became fascinated with it after reading through the medical research and discovering favorable results. With so many prescription medications on the market, he found it unbelievable to see a single compound with so many potential uses.
“Stress, lack of sleep, and inactivity can all damage our immune system’s ability to protect itself,” says Hartenbach. “Medterra has a variety of products that specifically address those needs and have become essential for our customers — even more so since the pandemic hit. While the physical illness caused by the coronavirus is easy to identify, I believe we are all underestimating the psychological toll of feeling powerless during this era. With so much out of our control, the one thing we can all do is be proactive with our health and wellness.”
Aside from working entirely remotely for the last six months, Medterra has experienced several other significant disruptions to their business due to Covid-19. Product launches have been delayed and retail sales have suffered. As a result, the team began working with manufacturers to source and develop hand sanitizer for retail clients. This strengthened existing retail relationships and helped secure cash flow. “At one point, we had some of the largest hand sanitizer manufacturers in the country calling us for bottles,” Hartenbach says.
Hartenbach also believes that times of uncertainty create opportunities for start-ups and small businesses, who are better able to pivot quickly and decisively than are larger companies. “We have no way of knowing what the world will look like in a year, but we can all be confident that it will be very different,” he says. “Entrepreneurs need to take advantage of this shift and look to solve problems that have never existed before.”