Does Plant-Based Meat DTC Work?

Food and Beverage Direct-To-Consumer — My curiosity quest begins! 

I want to know what is going on in this space: what are the up and coming brands, what are the trends, what is working, and what is not working?

I have looked at a few F&B DTC brands in the past, such as Muddy Bites, Firebelly Tea, and Black Rifle Coffee. However, my curiosity has led me to looking into plant-based meat. 

Stagnant Growth

“The refrigerated plant-based meat category grew at 59% in 2019, 75% in 2020, but in 2021, the category was essentially flat, growing at 1%, ” 

“We believe the hyper exposure of the category early on drove a significant number of consumers to trial plant-based protein products.”

“In fact, trial rates were super high, penetrating 60% of US households, but consumers’ needs simply were not met, and they did not repeat purchases. As a result, the category did not reach expected levels of habituation, had very high lapse rates and very low buy rates.”

These quotes came from Curtis Eugene, president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Foods, during their February conference call discussing fiscal 2021 results. 

Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger are probably the two most popular names in the plant-based meat category. In May 2019, both brands saw their brand name be searched over 600,000 times. That was up from about 100,000 searches in November 2018. Today, both brands see about 75,000 searches per month for their brand name.

You can see a similar peak and then die off in the search term “plant based meat”. Monthly search volume for this term starts to increase in May 2019, peaking in January 2020 at approximately 50,000 searches that month. Today, this term is searched approximately 12,000 times per month. 

As stated by Curtis Eugene, it is clear that this category got some initial hype (led by Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger), but the hype did not last long, and interest in this category has died down. And according to The Plant-Based Foods Association, plant-based meat only accounts for 1.4% of total meat category sales in the US.

What Is Happening In The Direct-To-Consumer Space?

Impossible and Beyond both launched and DTC effort in 2020 (obviously, the pandemic forced this). However, both of these brands have since shut down these efforts. The prevailing thought is the revenue through their DTC channel was too little, and the delivery logistics of this type of product were too expensive.

That being said, there are still a few players in this space trying to make DTC work for plant-based meat. I took a look at Simulate (known for their product: Nuggs), Nowadays, Daring Chicken, and Deliciou. To my surprise, none of these companies are generating a ton of a sales through their websites:

Simulate – Averaging 17 orders per day in May

Nowadays – Averaging 25 orders per day in May

Daring – Averaging 12 orders per day in May

Deliciou – Averaging 35 orders per day in May

That means at most, these brands are doing well under $100K per month in sales (which means they are all likely doing less than $1M a year in sales through their website).

Simulate always had a DTC focus. However, I am no longer sure that is the case. You can find their Nuggs in almost any grocery store near you. In June of 2021, Simulate took on $50M of funding. 17 orders a day on their website does not justify that funding. They must be focusing on other channels of growth (grocery stores, restaurants, etc).

Well… Now What?

It does not look like plant-based meat is a good DTC play. We have already seen Beyond and Impossible exit this channel, and from the 4 brands I tracked, it appears they all are struggling to generate enough revenue from this channel to make it viable for them. 

The question now is why? I hosted a Food and Beverage Direct-To-Consumer round table discussion yesterday, and three qualities were brought up as to what makes a good fit for a F&B DTC product:

  1. Is it lightweight?
  2. Does it have shelf stability?
  3. Is it an item that would have re-occurring purchases?

For plant-based meat, the product is not terribly heavy, but it is over 1lb, making shipping costs at least $7-$8 per order. The product does not have great shelf stability (only lasting 10 days when refrigerated). And lastly, the product could be re-ordered regularly, but as we saw from Maple Leaf Foods, they were not seeing customers return and purchase it again. 

Plant-based meat is not a good DTC product based on those 3 qualities.

What Areas Of F&B DTC Interest You?

Are there any brands you are seeing that are catching your eye and making a DTC play? Are you seeing any trends that should be looked at? I am taking suggestions on where to look next in the F&B DTC space!

Update — Calling My Shot Again: Figs Q1 2022 Revenue Estimates

Victory Lap Time! On April 13th, I predicted that Figs would report $106.6M in Q1 2022 revenue. The consensus among analysts was the revenue expectation would be $117M. On May 12th, Figs released their Q1 2022 earnings. Revenue came in at $110.1M.

My tracking methods led me to a 97% accuracy in predicting their actual revenue numbers.

How Could I Improve This?

There are two factors that I have to estimate to get to their revenue number: Average Order Value and Cancellation Rate.

I have been using their last reported average order value in my revenue calculations. For my Q1 2022 estimates, I used their Q4 2021 average order value (which was $113). Figs average order value for Q1 2022 ended up being $116. If I had used $116 rather than $113, my revenue estimate would have been $109.5M. This would have improved my accuracy to 99.5%.

For the last 8 quarters, Figs’ average order value has grown on average by 4% each quarter (3.5% for the past 6 quarters). Going forward, I will factor in some growth to their average order value to get a more accurate prediction.

The second factor to consider is their cancelation rate. I am able to track how many total orders they receive. However, not all these orders get shipped, and thus Figs cannot consider them in their revenue reporting (pesky GAAP rules). I noticed in Q4 that the number of orders they reported in their revenue was 9% lower than the total number of orders they received. For Q1 2022, I used a cancelation rate of 8.5%. It appears their actual cancelation rate for this period was 8%. I expect to keep this percentage around 8-9% in my estimates moving forward.

Why Did Figs Miss Their $117M Expected Revenue Target?

I am sure you have heard this before: supply chain issues.

Figs had to move a planned product launch out of Q1 because the product could not make it to the fulfillment center in time. These new product launches have proven to be big revenue events for Figs. They have shown that part of their growth strategy is to constantly be running new product launches (new styles, new colors, etc). So, it is a big deal to them when they have to push back a product launch.

Also, two of their most popular items became out of stock in Q1 because the ships their products were on got unexpectedly re-routed while in transit. 

Because of the uncertainty in its supply chain, Figs has now downgraded its total 2022 revenue projection to $510M – $530M from $550 – $560 (the stock market did not like this).

What Is Working For Figs?

First, interest in their product and brand continues to grow. Figs now has 2 million active customers. This is up from 1.5 million active customers a year ago.

Searches for their brand name “Figs” is up 50% year over year (2.169M searches Q1 2022 vs 1.45M searches Q1 2021)

Second, they are seeing strong growth in their product expansion lines. 80% of their revenue still comes from scrubwear sales. However, sales for their lifestyle products are up 81% in Q1 year over year. And sales for their footwear product line in Q1 2022 were greater than all their total 2021 footwear sales.

Lastly, Figs has started its international expansion. In April, Figs did a soft launch in 7 EU countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands). International sales are up 59% year over year.

April Sales

In April, Figs received a total of 261,020 orders. Applying an estimated 8% cancellation rate, that means Figs will recognize revenue for 240,138 orders. Plugging in an average order value of $117 (modest growth from Q1), Figs will recognize about $28M in revenue for April.

This is significantly down from the March revenue of $45.6M.

I see three options as to why this may be a down month:

  1. Supply chain issues continue to hurt their sales further.
  2. April could be a traditionally slow month for them and this was expected (unfortunately, I do not have their monthly revenue for the first 9 months of 2021).
  3. Starting in April, international sales to those 7 countries listed above, started going through a 3rd party processor (Globe-e). These sales are no longer represented in my tracking of wearfigs.com, and unfortunately, these international orders are now grouped within Globe-e’s orders, and I cannot see how many orders Figs is processing through this international service. 

It could be a combination of all three as well.

I will be back in early July for my Q2 revenue estimation for Figs!

Banana Ball – The Business Behind The Savannah Bananas

We need to talk about the Savannah Bananas, a baseball team in Savannah, Georgia, that is going viral on social media right now. Yes, I typically only break down e-commerce businesses (and I will break down their e-commerce merchandise sales), but I am just fascinated (and slightly giddy) with the Savannah Bananas that I need to break down this business.

Baseball purist, avert your eyes!

Best Seat In The House, And Bored Out Of His Mind

Jesse Cole is the founder of Fans First Entertainment and owner of the Savannah Bananas. Jesse is a former D1 college pitcher who got injured and could not continue his pitching career post-college. He started his coaching career by joining the staff of a Cape League baseball team (A premier summer baseball league for college players in Cape Cod, Massachusetts). With the best seat in the house (on the bench), he found himself bored out of his mind watching the game.

In 2008 at the age of 23, Jesse became the general manager of the Gastonia Grizzlies of the Coastal Plain League in North Carolina. In 2014, Jesse purchased the team. Under Jesse’s leadership from 2008 to 2015, the Gastonia Grizzlies broke attendance records each year.

In 2015, Jesse became aware of an opportunity to create another team in the Coastal Plain League based in Savannah, Georgia (after the Mets relocated their farm team out of Savannah). In 2016, the Savannah Bananas were born (after letting their fans vote on the team name). 

Starting in 2016, The Savannah Bananas have sold out every game and set several Coastal Plain League attendance records, all because Jesse wanted to make baseball fun.

Stop Doing What Your Customers Hate

Jesse studied his fans’ behavior and learned what they disliked. He didn’t wait for them to tell them what they didn’t like. The fans voted with their actions. Jesse will often cite the famous Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Jesse would have pictures taken of the crowd during different moments in the game to see when the fans became disinterested. He would focus on those moments to try to keep the fans engaged. He saw no matter what they did, after 2 hours, fans were leaving the stadium. By the fans’ actions, they told him they wanted 2-hour baseball games.

Fans did not like being nickeled and dimed at the stadium after paying for their ticket. So Jesse sold tickets that included all-you-can-eat concessions.

Jesse hated that their fans had to pay service fees on top of their ticket prices. So this led Jesse to buy their ticket exchange, iSportsTix. Originally, Jesse made a deal with iSportsTix, that Savannah Bananas would pay them $3,200 a year to use their system with no additional fees. This no-fee policy grew the Bananas fan base where iSportTix could not handle the demand. So Jesse bought iSportTix. They now handle the ticketing for 8 other independent baseball teams, plus a hand full of minor league hockey teams. Each team pays an annual fee of $4,000 dollars.  

Banana Ball

  1. Every Inning Counts – The team that gets the most runs in an inning, gets a point for that inning. Win the inning, get the point.
  2. Two Hour Time Limit – If the game is tied at the end of two hours, the game will go into a showdown to determine a winner.
  3. No Stepping Out – if the batter steps out of the box, its a strike.
  4. No Bunting – Bunting Sucks. If the batter bunts, they will be thrown of the game. 
  5. Batters Can Steal 1st – If a passed ball or wild pitch happens during any pitch of an at-bat, the batter can take off to first.
  6. No Walks Allowed – If a pitcher throws the fourth ball it becomes a sprint. The hitter will take off running while the catcher has to throw the ball around every defensive player on the field before it becomes live. The hitter can advance to as many bases as he can. The ball does not have to touch the catcher or pitcher. 
  7. 1 on 1 Showdown Tiebreaker – Each team picks one pitcher and one hitter to face off. The defensive team only has the pitcher, catcher and one fielder. If a hitter puts the ball in play, he has to score and make it home to get a point. If the ball is put in play, the pitcher and fielder are allowed to chase the ball and throw it to the catcher for a play at the plate. If the pitcher strikes him out, or gets him out before scoring, he doesn’t get a point. If the batter walks, he takes second and the hitting team will bring in another hitter to the plate. 
  8. No Mound Visits Allowed – Let’s Leep the game moving. No mound visits from the coach, catcher, or any other players. Hype your pitcher up from afar if needed. 
  9. If A Fan Catches A Foul Ball, It’s An Out – Why not let the fans get in on some of the action? Whatever you do, just don’t catch a Bananas Foul Ball.

Jesse is trying to optimize the game of baseball for a better fan experience. However, he cannot do this with his Savannah Bananas baseball team that plays in the Coastal Plain League (they still have to play by traditional baseball rules). So Jesse created Banana Ball that is played by two professional baseball teams, The Savannah Bananas and The Party Animals. 

The clips from these games are the ones you see going viral on social media. This year Banana Ball went on tour, playing 12 games in 6 different cities. All games sold out (nearly 70,000 tickets sold cumulative). And 2 of the games were aired on ESPN!

Metrics of Success

  • The Savannah Bananas have sold out every game at their stadium and have over a 12,000 person waitlist to get tickets.
  • Over 1,000 people are on a waitlist to work for the Savannah Bananas
  • Social media growth last 4 months:
    • Instagram 236% follower growth (from 121K to 409K)
    • TikTok 161% follower growth (from 916K to 2.4M)
    • Twitter 155% follower growth (from 33K to 84.9K)
  • Website traffic – Over 100,000 Monthly Visitors (up from 20,000 monthly visitors)
  • Search Volume – 301,000 monthly searches in March for the term “Savannah Bananas” up from 27,000 searches a year ago!
  • 15 year MLB veteran, 2x World Series Champion, 3x All Stay, Cy Young Award Winner, Gold Glove Winner, Jake Peavy went and pitched for the Savannah Bananas

$10M in Revenue?

I am not sure the Savannah Bananas will get to $10M in revenue this year, but they may be very close. 

Banana Ball Tour – $20 a ticket, 12 sold-out games to a max cumulative capacity of 69,600. That is $1.4M in ticket sales.

Plus two more games added in Kansas City in front of 10,000 people each ($200,000 in ticket sales per game, however this may be split with the other team).

Plus 6 more Banana Ball Home games at the end of the season – $480K

Total Banana Ball 2022 Ticket Sales ~ $2.1M

Savannah Bananas (CPL) Ticket Sales – 24 Home games at $20 per ticket is $1.9M

Online Merchandise Sales – Because of the surge of interest in Savannah Bananas, their website traffic, and merchandise sales have increased. In the past 14 days they have received 2,090 merchandise orders. Their average order value is most likely between $75 – $100. That means on a daily basis, they are generating about $11,000 – $15,000 in revenue from their online merchandise sales.

No doubt they will be faced with some seasonality but its safe to say they could see upwards of $3M in revenue in 2022 from their online merchandise sales.

So far, I have outlined the case for a possible $7M in revenue in 2022. However, there are still a lot of unknowns that I cannot estimate:

  • How much revenue do they bring in from non-all-inclusive concession sales? Alcohol Sales?
  • In stadium merchandise sales?
  • Bananas Academy (The Bananas Academy is a mixture of different camps and training sessions that allows any player form age six to high school to find the perfect fit for them to learn from the Bananas)?
  • Sponsors, partners, and media rights? In 2020, the Savannah Bananas removed all in-stadium advertising. I am not sure if that is still the case or if they have other sponsors. Did the Bananas get paid for the ESPN Airing? Are there other opportunities to monetize their content?

What a Business…

Even if you are a baseball purist, you have to appreciate the business that has been created here. Jesse found a way to get people’s attention and get them interested in what he was doing. He turned people into raving fans of his product and that is why he has over 12,000 people on the waiting list to be able to purchase a ticket.

Jesse also has the business “Bananas For Business”. As it says on their website: “Stop wasting money on marketing and start creating an experience where the customers do the marketing for you.” He is taking the concepts he has built with the Savannah Bananas and helping other businesses create a fan first experience. 

Millions of Dollars Selling Blue Light Glasses

Felix Gray sells glasses that are designed to combat digital eye strain, which reduces eye fatigue, headaches, and blurred vision. Better known as Blue Light glasses.

Felix Gray was launched by David Roger and his co-founder, Chris Benedict, in 2016.

I have been tracking Felix Gray’s website sales since October 2021. In the 165 days, they received 16,723 orders. Their average order value is just over $100. This means in those 165 days, they have generated just over $1.7M in sales through their website.

How It Started

After David Roger graduated from Cornell University in 2013, he worked for Venture For America. He spent a lot of time staring at spreadsheets on the computer. He found that his eyes started killing him.

Blue Light filtering glasses did exist at this time, but they were not stylish and, quite frankly, were just ugly and embarrassing to wear. David set out to make stylish blue light filtering glasses.

Indie Go Go

In 2016, David launched an Indie Gogo campaign to raise money for their first manufacturing run. This campaign raised $18,045 from 89 backers.

2 Week Trial Test

David was operating Felix Gray in New York City. He came up with a plan to have companies like Spotify, Uber, WeWork, and others to allow their employees to test wearing a pair of Felix Gray glasses while they worked. Each company got 50 pairs for their employees to try.

At the end of the two-week trial period, the employee had the option to return the glasses or purchase the glasses with their own money. 1 out 3 testers purchased the glasses at the end of the trial. More people would contact them days after stopping using them to see if they could still purchase them.

This trial proved proof of concept and that their was demand for their product.

Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator

After getting proof of concept, Felix Gray joined The Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator for the summer session in 2016. They graduated from the accelerator in September of 2016. 6 months later, they raised $1M in seed funding.

Customer Acquisition Strategy

As you probably heard, they was a heyday for customer acquisition on Facebook. Companies like Away Travel, MVMT, and Casper benefitted greatly from low acquisition costs on Facebook. Today, that is not so much the case. However, Felix Gray did catch this benefit back in 2016 and 2017 like these other brands, and they were able to scale customers fast and inexpensively.

They also recognized an arbitrage opportunity with podcast ads in 2017. There was a large audience listening to podcasts, but the cost of podcast advertising had not yet caught up to the cost on other channels with similar size audiences because there was a lack of supply in podcast advertisers. Felix Gray capitalized on this by creating content collaborations with podcasts (specifically with Barstool Sports).

Measuring Results

Felix Gray needed to know what advertising channels were working for them and what channels were not. When selling a physical product with a focus on profitability, they did not have the luxury of running brand awareness campaigns. They needed their advertising to drive direct response sales.

Felix Gray took steps to make sure they could measure and understand the effectiveness of their advertising channels. They would use unique URLs and post-purchase surveys to get a true understanding of how customers were hearing about them and what was driving them to make a purchase.

Word of Mouth

From their post-purchase surveys, Felix Gray knows that word of mouth is their number 1 lead source. To get people to talk about your product, you need to give them something to talk about. 

So obviously, first and foremost is the product. Is it high quality, and does it do what you claim it to do? 

Second is the experience of getting the product. How is the packaging? Is it a pleasant experience to receive and unpackage the product? How does it ship? Does it get there quickly and within expected time frames?

Lastly, how is the customer service? If you have an issue, how easy is it to get that issue corrected?

These are all areas Felix Gray has excelled at and increased the likelihood that someone will tell their friends about the product they purchased.

$1.7M over 6 Months

This number felt a little low to me. My research on Felix Gray has me believing they should be doing well over $10M in annual sales.

One immediate thought is that they could be selling on other channels that are cannibalizing their direct-to-consumer website sales. Felix Gray sells their product through Best Buy and Game Stop. They also appear to have a model available through Target. These channels could be taking away sales from their own website (and possibly adding more overall revenue than they had before).

My second thought is competition. I have covered Shady Rays and Blenders Eyewear before. Both of these brands are generating millions of dollars of sales per month. And both of these brands have moved into selling blue light filtering glasses. You can also now get blue light filtering glasses from Warby Parker. These are brands that already have a large audience that can easily steal sales away from Felix Gray now that Felix Gray has proven there is demand for this product.

Lastly, did the pandemic bring sales forward? Searches for the term “blue light glasses” skyrocketed as the pandemic hit, and people were spending more time with screens (went from 200,000 monthly searches to 600,000 monthly searches in April 2020 and 1,000,000 monthly searches in September 2020.) Searches from their brand name, “Felix Gray”, jumped from 20,000 monthly searches to 74,000 monthly searches in April 2020. Currently, their brand name is only receiving about 9,000 monthly searches.

Unfortunately, to answer some of these questions, I would need to have been tracking them for years, and I only have 6 months of data on their sales.

Social Media Stagnant

Currently, Felix Gray has just over 45,000 followers on Instagram. In the last 36 months, they have only gained 1,500 followers (a 3% growth). I was shocked to see they did not have a COVID bump in their social media following. Instead, it has just been flat for the past 3 years.

However, this is not unique to Felix Gray. Gunnar, a direct competitor to Felix Gray, also has had very similar stagnant growth in their Instagram followers. Gunnar currently has 53,600 followers, and over the past 3 years, they have only gained 131 followers.

Digital Wellness

Felix Gray is attempting to grow beyond blue light glasses. They want to be a digital wellness company. They have started to introduce supplements that help enhance your long-term eye health and vision. And from the sounds of it, I would expect Felix Gray to be launching new products around Digital Wellness in the next few months.

Calling My Shot Again: Figs Q1 2022 Revenue Estimates

Check our my previous write-up on Figs Q4 and total 2021 revenue here.

——

It is time to play: guess Figs’ Q1 revenue before they release earnings. I was able to estimate their Q4 2021 and FY 2021 revenue with a 98% accuracy.

I did notice something interesting about their Q4 earnings release. They reported $128.7M in revenue with an average order value of $113. That means by their numbers, they had 1,138,938 orders during that period. However, from my tracking I had them receiving 1,260,060 orders during that period.

So why are they reporting less orders than I am tracking?

My assumption is cancelations. Figs should only be reporting revenue for orders that they ship and that are received by the customer (standard revenue recognition practices according to GAAP). I am tracking all orders they received (regardless of cancelation status). It looks like in Q4 they received about 9% more orders then they shipped and delivered to their customers.

How was I 98% accurate if I was 9% off of their total number of orders?

Good question. The answer is that I factored cancelation into their average order value. They reported $113 as their average order value and I calculated their average order value at $102. However, to stay consistent with their reporting, I will factor in cancelations into their total number of orders and not their average order value.

Q1 2022 Estimates

Figs received just over 1,000,000 orders in Q1. Factoring in a cancelation rate of 8.5%, they recognized 944,000 orders for revenue in this period. Using their average order value of $113, this means Figs generated approximately $106.6M in revenue for Q1 2022.

In Q1 2021, Figs reported $87M in revenue. This means year-over-year, Figs has grown its revenue by 20%. Figs’ 2022 guidance for total yearly revenue is $550M-$560M, a 30% increase year over year. Q1 does come in under this growth target, but to be fair, Q1 has been their lowest revenue period (Figs will see higher year-over-year growth later this year).

Valuation

I have been tracking Figs’ valuation for a long time now and quite frankly, I still have no idea what they should be valued at. They went public with a valuation of around $4.6B, their valuation peaked at around $7B, and their valuation dipped as low as $2.2B. 

Their stock price has climbed back up a little since their 2021 earnings release, and today, their stock price sits at $20.29, giving them a valuation of $3.33B.

Earnings Release.

I expect Figs to release their Q1 2022 earnings about a month from now. I will be back to assess how accurate my prediction was and break down any new information they release. Stay tuned!

Starting From Scratch Is Hard

This is a check-in on the Firebelly Tea Brand. I wrote about their launch of Firebelly Tea back in November. David Segal (formerly of DavidsTea) and Harley Finkelstein (President of Shopify) teamed up to create this brand. 

David grew DavidsTea to over $100M in yearly revenue and took the company public in 2015. This time David is starting from scratch and trying to grow his direct-to-consumer tea brand. 

Sales

Firebellytea.com went live in November 2021. Since then, they have received just under 700 orders. Their average order value is about $50. Meaning they have generated about $34,000 since they launched.

Monthly Sales:

November (164 Sales) – $8,200

December (88 Sales) – $4,400

January (130 Sales) – $6,500

February (170 Sales) – $8,500

March (128 Sales) – $6,400

It then occurred to me that they may have a separate website for Canadian sales (both David and Harley live in Canada). Sure enough, Firebellytea.ca exists and processes orders separately from Firebellytea.com.

I have not been tracking Firebellytea.ca monthly, but I can tell they have received just under 1,000 orders on that site since they launched.

Between the two sites, they have received just under 1,700 orders (on average of about 10-12 orders per day) for total revenue since November of about $83,000 (approximately $17K per month).

I am slightly surprised to see a relatively low number of sales from Firebelly Tea. I would have thought that David and Harley would have been able to jump-start sales faster than this. I think this proves that no matter who you are, starting from scratch can be hard.

Here Is How Have They Tried To Grow The Brand

Back in November, David was a guest on many podcasts and was interviewed for many articles.

Podcasts:

Perfectly Mentored with Jason Portnoy – EP158: David Segal: Starting From Scratch

The Modern Retail Podcast – ‘It starts with the product’: Firebelly Tea’s David Segal on building a modern tea empire

Monocle – Monocle 24: The Entreprenuers

The CJN Daily – David’s new tea: This entrepreneur is betting against supermarkets for his next venture

The CEO Series with McGill’s Karl Moore – entrepreneur David Segal & Deborah Flint, CEO of the GTAA

Articles:

The Hustle – Interview: David Segal on the future of tea

Entrepreneur – This Founder Just Launched a Company That’s Giving Tea a Much-Needed Makeover for the 21st Century: ‘Tea Is for Entrepreneurs. Coffee Is Corporate America’s Drink.’

Strategy Online – David Segal takes another swing at tea

This press did help get their name out their to start. November has higher sales than December and January. Also search volume for their brand name peaked in November.

Search Volume

The initial PR and buzz resulted in the term “Firebelly Tea” being searched 1,600 times in November. However, the buzz has died down a little bit, and they are seeing about 700 searches a month for their brand name. 

Facebook Ads

Firebelly Tea has 57 total ads currently running on Facebook (but only 9 different types of creative). 

31 ads are running in the United States market and 26 ads are running in the Canadian market.

See their Facebook Ads

Paid Search Strategy

Firebelly Tea is only targeting 6 keywords right now:

  1. Firebelly Tea
  2. fire bellys
  3. firebelly
  4. fire belly tea
  5. david segal tea
  6. chinese tea

As you can see their top 4 paid search terms are all versions on their brand name. And number 5 is their founders name. Their only non-branded keyword is “Chinese Tea” and this term only see about 12,000 – 14,000 searches per month.

Email

Firebelly Tea appears to be putting more effort into their email marketing strategy in March. I did not receive any emails from the In February, and I received 1 email from them in January. In March I received 4:

March 1st 7:07PM – Take a trip with tea around the world.

March 6th 8:04AM – What’s all the hype about Teaware?

March 14th 7:05AM – Natural Sleep Tea Remedies.

March 20th 3:15PM – Introducing 320: A new kind of self care

All I can say is, SEND MORE EMAILS. Get an email out at least once a week but even more frequently if you can!

Social Media

@firebellytea on Instagram has 2,279 followers

@firebelly.tea on Facebook 113 followers

@firebellytea on TikTok has 316 followers

Firebelly has been active on both Instagram and Tiktok. They are running a “320 Tea” campaign. Encouraging take a tea break at 3:20 in the afternoon. They are also running a sample pack giveaway: Givingaway 20 sample packs, 1 per day.

Audience Demographics

Slow Start To Healthy Growth?

It appears Firebelly is off to a relatively slow start. However, this may set them up for healthy, sustainable growth. They are taking all the proper steps to build an audience and engage with them. They are building a solid foundation that they should be able to grow off of. I will check back in with Firebelly Tea to see their progress in a couple of months.

Tracking The Shark Tank Bump In Real Time

This is something I have wanted to do for a while: Track a brand before and after pitching on Shark Tank.

I stumbled across a TikTok post from Curie in early March saying they have been selected to air on Friday, March 11th. This was a perfect opportunity to start tracking a brand before they aired on Shark Tank and see how the airing affects their website sales.

What is Curie?

Curie started as a natural deodorant that worked! Clean, aluminum-free deodorant. Their product line has expanded to full body deodorant spray, hydrating hand sanitizer, detox mask, whipped body wash, and more.

Shark Tank Tracking

In the 7 days leading up to the airing, Curie had received 135 orders. That’s an average of about 19 orders per day through their website. 10 hours after they aired on Shark Tank, they had received over 3600 orders. And within 3 days after their airing, they received in total just over 7500 orders. 

Curie’s average order size is about $35. Before the Shark Tank airing, they were generating around $665 per day in sales through their website. In the 3 days after their airing, they generated over $260K in sales.

Sarah Moret’s (founder of Curie) Shark Tank Story

Sarah started Curie as a side hustle in 2018/2019. In her first year of business, she generated $125K in sales with zero digital ad spend. She grew the business organically through social media and influencer partnerships.

In February 2020, Sarah applied to be on Shark Tank but was eliminated in the first round. However, she was encouraged to apply again.

In 2020 she focused on Curie full-time and grew the sales to $700K. In February 2021, she reapplied to Shark Tank. This time she was accepted. Her taping date was set for late July. The night before her taping, she got a call from the producer. Due to weather, flights had been delayed, and as a result, she was bumped from the schedule. She was told that she might have a chance in September, but no guarantees.

September came around, and she was told that she was going to be a local standby. If someone dropped out or they had extra space, they would call her in at the last moment to come film her pitch.

One Saturday night in September (about halfway through the standby window), she went out for drinks and dinner. The next morning, slightly hungover, she decided to go for a hike with her fiancee. During the hike, she received 2 missed calls from the Shark Tank producer. Sarah called the producer back and was told that they were ahead of schedule filming today and could fit her in at 4pm. It was currently 2pm.

Sarah didn’t think she had enough time to leave from her hike, get ready, and make it to the production studio. However, after some convincing from her fiancee, she agreed to go give her pitch.

At the end of all pitch, all the Sharks opted not to invest. However, after Mark and Barbara heard her story of being told only 2 hours ago she would be pitching, they came back in and made her an offer of $300K for 10% equity (plus another 4% advisory shares).

Other Curie Financial Data

  • At the beginning of 2020, Sarah raised $1M through a convertible note at a $5M cap
  • Curie was on pace for over $2M in sales in 2021
  • Gross Margins
    • Stick Deodorant: Retail $12 Cost $2.70 (77% GM)
    • Spray Deodorant: Retail $14 Cost $2.90 (79% GM)
    • Body Care Products: 80% Gross Margin

Female Startup Club Podcast

I have recently become friends with Doone Roisin, the creator of the Female Startup Club and the host of the Female Startup Club Podcast. Doone had Sarah Moret on her podcast back in September:

This DTC brand grew 500% last year through a partnership with…

This is a must listen to podcast episode. Here are my takeaways from it:

  • Sarah started Curie with $12K in initial capital. $10K of that was used for the first production run and the other $2K was used for trademark, incorporating, and building the website
  • Before her first production run, Sarah had it narrowed down to 5 scents she wanted to go with. However, she could only afford 1 scent to start. Rather than just going with her own opinion, Sarah went to a local mall and asked random women to smell the scents and ask for their opinions. The most popular scent would be the one she would use for the first production run (White Tea won and it is still their top seller today).
  • Sarah built a core customer base through organic means over a couple of years before introducing a new product line to them. She credited this to her explosive growth when they launched their hand sanitizer in 2020 (and yes, timing also mattered as it was in the start of the pandemic).
  • Influencers have been a big driver of growth for them. However, rather than just make the relationship transactional, Sarah would go to lunch with these influencers, work out with the influencers, become friends with these influencers. Building these relationships went a long way when the influencer promoted her product.
  • As of August 2021, Curie struggled to profitably acquire customers through Facebook (Today, they only have 2 active ads on Facebook. I have to believe that Facebook advertising is not a huge driver of growth for them).
  • In July 2021, 30% of Curie’s revenue came from TikTok.
  • In August 2021, Curie was launched in all Soul Cycle gyms. This offered Curie exposure to their ideal audience and allowed them to try out the product for themselves. This partnership was supposed to launch in April 2020 but because of covid this was delayed over a year.
  • Another big growth driver for Curie was being on QVC. The timing matched up perfectly as QVC was starting QVC Clean (products made with clean materials)
  • Sarah prioritizes building her network. The opportunities for Soul Cycle and QVC came because of people in her network who could make introductions for her.

Is the Shark Tank Bump A One Time Event, Or Is There Sustainable Growth From The Exposure?

The answer to this question will come in time. When I tracked MuddyBites, and they had a surge of sales because of a viral exposure, I thought they would see increased sales long after the event. However, their sales returned back down to the same level as they were before the viral event.

Will Curie’s website sales return back down to where they were pre-Shark Tank airing or will they see continued growth from this exposure? I will continue to track them to find out!

Follow Up To “Are My Methods Accurate”: 98% Accuracy Estimating Figs’ Revenue

On January 6th, I posted my Q4 and 2021 total revenue estimates for Figs. I estimated that Figs would generate around $126M in Q4 and end with $417M-$418M Total 2021 Revenue. Figs released their earnings yesterday, and we now get to see how accurate my tracking methods are.

Figs reported revenues of $128.7M in Q4 and total 2021 revenue of $419.6M. My estimates from my tracking methods got me to 98% accuracy of their actual numbers.

Key Takeaway For Figs In 2021

  • 2021 Revenue was $419M, 2020 Revenue was $263M
  • Figs has 1.9M active customers as of December 31, 2021. Figs ended 2020 with 1.3M active customers. This is an increase of 46%. (Figs defines an active customer as a unique customer account that has made at least one purchase in the preceding 12-month period.)
  • 2021 Average Order Size was $105. In 2020 this was $94.
  • 68% of their customers come back and buy again. Figs has a 95% retention rate from year 2 to year 3 (meaning if the customer purchases in year 2, they are likely to be a customer for life).
  • 17% of their revenue comes from their lifestyle apparel (non-scrub apparel)
  • 7% of their total revenue came from non-United States markets

Valuation

Figs went public in May of 2021 with a valuation of about $4.6B. Figs’ stock price over the summer rose above $40/share, giving them a valuation of around $7B. However, the stock price has continued to slide since it’s summer highs. The stock price reached an all-time low on March 4th, closing at $13.44. Today, post Q4 earnings call, the stock has jumped nearly 25%, giving Figs a current valuation of about $3B.

More Sales At Full Price

In Q4 2021, Figs limited their discounts and moving forward their strategy will be to sell more at full price. To do this Figs is focusing on personalization and dynamic pricing.

Figs is using a tool called Nosto, which enables online retailers to deliver their customers a personalized shopping experience, not only on-site but through email and Facebook advertisements too.

Personalization has allowed Figs to grow their average order value by selling more at full price and selling more items in each order.

Frequent Product Drops

Another growth driver for Figs has been their frequent product drops. Almost weekly, Figs has a new product released on their website (and these products often sell out quickly). This builds up a fear of missing out and has successfully driven sales for other brands that I have tracked.

January and February Sales Data

In January, Figs received 315,000 orders. And in February, they received over 225,000 orders. At an average order value of $105, Figs generated $33M in revenue in January and $23.6M in revenue in February.

Q1 2021, Figs generated $87M in sales. For the first 2 months of Q1 2022, Figs has generated $56.6M in sales. To beat Q1 2021, Figs will need to generate more than $31M in sales in March.

Targeting Competitors

Starting in 2022, I noticed Figs began to bid on their competitor’s brand name with their paid search terms. Terms such as:

Jannuu

Jannuu Scrubs

Carhartt Scrubs

Allheart Scrubs

Barco Scrubs

This means when a person searches a Figs’ competitor’s name, a Figs ad will pop up. I had not seen this strategy from Figs in 2021. And from the looks of it, the strategy may be working as “Jannuu” is their 3rd best performing keyword.

Growth

Figs has projected 2022 revenue to be $550M – $560M. This is a 30% year-over-year growth rate. To do this, they plan to acquire more new customers in 2022 than they did in 2021. They also plan to continue to grow their average order size through personalization and selling more at full price. They will also look to increase their repeat purchase rate.

Check back at the beginning of April for my Q1 2022 Figs Revenue estimate!

136,000 Orders In The Past 130 Days

Rhoback has received 136,211 orders in the past 135 days. That is an estimated $20M of revenue through their website!

What is Rhoback?

 

“Crave Activity” is their tag line. Rhoback sells activewear apparel which started as golf apparel but has expanded into all active lifestyle apparel.

The Back Story

Rhoback was founded by 3 friends out of The University of Virginia in 2016. 2 of them are now married to each other, Kristina Loftus and Matt Loftus, and the third wheel, Kevin Hubbard.

Rhoback launched with zero advertising. They gathered up all the emails they could from their contacts and messaged each one, letting them know they were starting a clothing company. They asked them if they could preorder to help fund their first round of production.

After getting some inventory in and getting some sales under their belt, They had a teardrop camper built that could house their inventory (essentially a mobile pop-up shop). They would drive this camper up and down the east coast of the United States, stopping at golf courses and retail stores to sell their clothing (they would do a revenue share with the location they set up at).

Creativity and Engagement

Rhoback does not try to sell its product with its content. They look to create creative content that engages a consumer and then retarget those consumers with an ad to buy their product.

For the 2018 Ryder Cup, the Rhoback team decided to make a video in support of the United States team. They traveled to Washington DC, one dressed up as Abraham Lincoln and the other dressed up as George Washington. The two “trained” a golfer as he hit shots or took swings around famous locations in Washington DC. The video in total got over 1M views for them.

The Financials

I have been tracking Rhoback since the middle of October. Since then, they have processed over 136,000 orders for an estimated revenue of $20M.

Coming into Black Friday/Cyber Monday, they were receiving on average 1500 orders a day. Here are their average daily orders per day each month:

November – 1,500

December – 1,000

January – 570

February – 600

Product Sourcing

Rhoback has all of its apparel manufactured in South Korea from a company called Good Trust. On average, these are the prices they are paying for their apparel:

Polo Shirt: $17-$20

Q/Zip: $20-$24

Hoodie: $23-$27

Customer Demographics

This Website Is Averaging over $1M/day In Sales!

Gymshark is averaging over $1M per day on their United States website. That is just over 11,000 orders per day!

The Backstory

Gymshark was founded in the UK by Ben Francis back in 2012. Ben was/is a fitness enthusiast. Before launching Gymshark, as a teenager, Ben would build websites. His first fully functioning website sold custom license plates. Then he created 4 iPhone apps (2 of them in the fitness category). Next, he created a fitness social network that generated several thousand signups, but it never became sustainable. 

Ben then built Gymshark, which started out selling supplements. He wanted to purchase inventory, but the minimum order size was over 8,000 British Pounds (approximately $10,000 USD). Since Ben did not have that much money, he was forced into the dropship model. It took him a few months to get his first order (which was for 50 British Pounds, but only 1 to 2 Pounds of profit). He achieved his goal of transacting in fitness online. However, the margins were too small in dropshipping.

Ben was selling fitness apparel on his website alongside the supplements. He noticed that the apparel just didn’t fit right. So from the money he made from dropshipping supplements (and his pizza delivery job), he bought a sewing machine and screen-printer. He started to make his own fitness apparel.

BodyPower Expo

BodyPower Expo is a yearly fitness expo in Birmingham, UK. Ben knew in his gut that Gymshark had to be at this event. It was 3000 Pounds for a booth but the event was a year away. He knew he could generate that money from his current sales on his website by then, so he signed up for a booth.

Over the year, sales picked up and Ben had enough money to fly over their influencers and YouTubers to be at the Gymshark booth. Rather than just trying to sell product out of their booth, Ben set it up so people could come meet and talk to these “celebrity” fitness YouTubers. After the event, they invited the fans to go lift with them at the gym. They filmed all of this and posted the videos to their Facebook.

Ben had to turn off the Gymshark website the weekend of this event because he feared he did not have enough inventory to sell at the event and online. Before the BodyPower Expo event, Gymshark generated about 200-300 Pounds per day. The videos from the BodyPower Expo started to go viral over the weekend. When Ben turned the GymShark website back on, they generated over 30,000 Pounds in sales in the first 30 minutes of being back online.

Ben inadvertently built a community at this expo. Gymshark would then travel to Germany, Australia, California to attend similar expos, repeating the blueprint from the BodyExpo event.

GymShark’s Financials

In 2018 Gymshark generated $128 million in total revenue. And in their fiscal year ending July 2021, Gymshark generated $550 million in revenue.

I have been tracking the Gymshark United States website since July 2021. Since then, their website has received over 2.2M orders for an estimated revenue of $209M. It is reported that their United States website brings in 50% of their total revenue. Gymshark also has dedicated websites for 13 different countries and one for the rest of the world (14 total websites that transact separately). There are 6 months remaining in their fiscal year. However, November and December appear to be their highest-selling months, so I would not double their current sales to get their estimated total yearly revenue. 

Social Media

Gymshark’s growth has been fueled by building their community which started with in-person events but grew exponentially because of their social media. Gymshark now has over 10M followers across their social media platforms:

Facebook – 1.9M Followers

Instagram – 5.6M Followers

TikTok – 3.5M followers

YouTube – 336K subscribers

Audience Demographics

Key Take-aways

  1. Passion. Ben had a passion for fitness and was determined to build a business in the space. Following that passion led him to build a billion-dollar brand.
  2. Determination. Ben tried multiple different business models in the fitness space with varying success. But he kept pushing forward, determined to figure it out.
  3. Resourcefulness. When Ben did not have the money to purchase supplement inventory, he figured out a method to sell other people’s inventory (now known as drop shipping). When Ben found a problem with fitness apparel, he started hand-making his own apparel (again he did not have the money for a factory production run). 
  4. Community. Gymshark is more than just selling a product, and Ben figured that out at their first in-person event at the BodyPower Expo. Building a community around Gymshark is what has fueled its growth.