September 26, 2014
In your estimation, how often do low- and middle-income consumers cook at home? A recent study, published in the sociology journal Contexts examined that question in depth, and had some interesting findings. Vox interviewed one of the scientists behind the paper, and the resulting article is absolutely worth reading in full.
But what impressed us most was that cooking is still a huge part of these consumers' lives - and it's not always positive. As researcher Sarah Bowen said, "We hear all of the time that Americans have stopped cooking. A lot of the families in our study were cooking every night, especially the poorest families. They couldn’t afford to eat fast food and a lot didn’t have cars. People were cooking a lot and that surprised me a little, because of how much we hear that the opposite is true. At the same time, they felt they weren’t cooking well enough. They felt like they didn’t have enough money and weren’t able to cook the right way or the way they should be."
In an era when we hear constant pressure from food pundits to only cook at home from scratch, this study seems to imply that there is still a significant opportunity for healthy, quick meal offerings for these harried - but increasingly health-conscious - consumers.
September 19, 2014
We recently had a chance to sit down with Jamie Wolfond, founder of the new furniture and product design company Good Thing NY. In the roughly two months since its founding, Good Thing has already drawn the attention of the design world. His philosophy around innovation stresses attention to every aspect of sourcing and manufacturing, from the very outset of the design process. By creating designs that take into account their materials' strengths from the beginning, Good Thing produces clever, elegantly simple products. Check out the video to learn more, and see the famous Emergency Bench being assembled!
And remember to check out all of our other Expert Eyes videos here.
September 12, 2014
Remember e-ink? For a moment around 2010, it looked poised to take the world by storm. While Amazon continues to use it for some Kindles - and some would say it still makes for the most readable display - it never really caught on in broader applications. But it's not dead; it remains perhaps the most power-efficient way to run a digital screen, and that feature means e-ink is showing up in some unexpected places.
The latest we've seen is an e-ink display on a checkout lane divider, those little plastic bars you use on the checkout conveyor belt to defend the borders of your grocery pile from the customer behind you. A company called Motion Display has created one that uses motion sensors to trigger an ad on its screen whenever it's picked up. We think this is a pretty cool innovation - combined with NFC chips or a code reader, it could be incorporated in some clever marketing efforts based around the items a consumer is buying. How would you use it? Let us know on Twitter, via @consumereyes!
September 5, 2014
While the efforts to purge BPA from plastic bottles are well known, there are still some unexpected places where the chemical can show up. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the thermal paper used in receipts can actually transfer a measurable amount of BPA through the skin, and the race was on to find a suitable replacement.
The latest innovation is Appvion's Alpha Free receipt paper, which replaces the BPA with Vitamin C - perhaps the most on-trend swapping of ingredients we've ever encountered. No word yet on whether it offers any appreciable health benefits, though.
September 4, 2014
Digital Rights Management, or DRM, has long been a hot-button issue in the digital realm; it may not have begun with Napster, but in the post-Napster era we've watched a constant race between users attempting to open up information to the world and content owners trying to keep it locked down. And as our everyday objects become more technologically advanced, we've seen a trend toward DRM popping up in some unexpected places.
Keurig's enormously popular K-Cup coffee machines use their own form of DRM to prevent other manufacturers from producing cups for the machines. The system employs a dot of a special dye on each authorized cup, which a sensor in the machine looks for before brewing begins - but with the Mother Parkers brand's announcement that their cups will be compatible with the latest Keurig machines, the code may be cracked. Will Keurig up the ante on the next iteration of their machine, or accept that the Keurig is now compromised? And if they succeed in keeping the system proprietary, where could this strategy show up next?