Eye Sightings

The Consumer Eyes Blog

November 13, 2015

Do you ever feel a little lost when you scan the craft-beer section at your local grocery store? Letsee Beer, a new app from South Korea, uses augmented-reality tech to identify any beer and immediately show user comments and reviews. Mashable recently called it "like Shazam for your beer," and it's a great example of a developer finding an effective real-world use for AR, a technology which often feels like a solution in search of a problem.
There's a bigger point to be made here, though. Craft beer is certainly a booming market, with so many new varieties that brewers are actually running out of new names for their beers. But the broader food world is experiencing a similar trend, with major players increasingly seeing their markets filled with lots of agile little competitors. And while consumers love the variety and regional stories these smaller brands present, there's also a point at which it starts to look like a lot of noise. 
The opportunity to help consumers hone in on the right item exists everywhere - and on every shelf of the grocery store. As smaller players take a larger slice of the pie, expect to see similar attempts to help intimidated consumers take advantage of all that choice.

November 9, 2015

Smartphone-based VR might be old news for those of us lucky enough to land one of Google's "Project Cardboard" kits a few years back, but for much of the public it still has the power to wow.
The New York Times took a decisive step into the world of virtual reality last week when it sent each of its print subscribers their own set of cardboard VR goggles. They can be used to view several videos on the Times' NYTVR app, and a steady stream of content is promised. And if you aren't a print subscriber, you can still download the content for free and watch it on your phone with a still-very-impressive motion-tracking 360º view. 
This is really an interesting venture to watch; there are plenty of major VR players readying their high-end gear for primetime, but aside from a few beta prototypes - the Oculus Rift developer kits and Samsung's Gear VR headset - the public hasn't had much of a chance to experience modern VR for themselves. 
The Times is providing two key elements - a means to watch content, and the content itself - essentially for free, which could have the potential to jumpstart VR awareness and ready the market for the dedicated hardware. And if VR ends up being a fluke? NYTVR might be the canary in the coal mine.

November 5, 2015

Every fall, we watch as the pumpkin spice flavor trend expands further into every corner of our lives - from lattes to beer to lip balm - and wonder when a new seasonal flavor will rise up to snatch away its crown.
Well, given that the arguable epicenter of the Pumpkin Spice universe is Starbucks, it would only make sense that the latest challenger is emerging from coffee competitor Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, which has just announced its own Holiday latte LTO flavor - Cookie Butter.
But wait, what is cookie butter? Well, if you're a real global foodie you might know it better as speculoos, an incredibly addictive Dutch spread made from ground-up cookies that many predict will be the next Nutella. The most popular brand of cookie for making speculoos, Biscoff, even makes their own line of the stuff.
Coffee Bean's Cookie Butter coffee flavor is fortunately more cookie than butter, with strong notes of gingerbread and cinnamon. It sounds pretty good, but time will tell if it can unseat the reigning fall latte champion. 
We think that the real insight in this news, however, is the growing awareness of cookie butter itself  - Trader Joe's already makes a popular variety, and in the coming year we expect to see it popping up in lots of new places.

October 28, 2015

We love Halloween candy just as much as the next office, but in this line of work, it's easy to get... a little jaded. So when our candy cravings strike, we tend to look for unusual flavors, hand-crafted ingredients, and truly cool packaging. Where are we getting our kicks? Click through for our favorite candy hookups -
Lollipops are a great carrier for just about any flavor - and Austin-based Lollyphile takes this to its furthest extremes. Along with the classics, the small-batch lollipop maker offers boundary-pushers like Blue Cheese, Absinthe, IPA, Cereal Milk and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Licorice alone is certainly an acquired taste, but in our travels we managed not just to fall for the stuff - we fell for its most extreme form, the sharply salty licorice candies popular in Scandinavia. If you follow us on Instagram, you may already know about Tyrkisk Peber - with a spicy kick to go along with the salt and licorice, these Finnish hard candies can best be described as a sensory overload. Stateside, a couple companies have started producing salty licorice; our favorite is Jacobsen, from Portland, OR. The fact that it comes in such cool packaging doesn't hurt, either.
And finally, for truly novel candy, you can't do much better than Japan. Here in New York, it's not hard for us to get our hands on the trendiest snacks from Tokyo, but it can be a challenge if you don't live in a big city - which is why services like Japan Crate are so great. Subscribe, and every months they ship a selection of up to 2lbs (!) of crazy Japanese candy and treats right to your door. 

October 26, 2015

If you've been snacking on those little dried sheets of seaweed, you're not alone - the market for seaweed snacks is growing 30% annually. Entrepreneurs are now looking at kelp as a sustainable, climate-change-resistant crop with a strong potential to become the next hot ingredient.  

The versatility of seaweed might be old news to anyone who eats a primarily Asian diet, but it will be a huge leap if it achieves mainstream popularity across the entire United States. Who's driving this revolution? Check out Grub Street's post to learn more.