Online healthcare hits its stride, while a surge of VPNs keep you from getting spied.
10 Minute Read
Each week we send out a handful of data points that we’re tracking, explaining what they mean and how you can use that data to your advantage. We’ll alert you to early-stage concepts, businesses, and apps so you won’t miss out on the latest opportunities.
3 Signals are sent with each weekly email. We’re also building a database where you can sort through past Signals, as well as other Signals that we’re looking at. You can search our early version of that database here. The next iteration will be built out a bit better, but please use that sheet for now.
This post will be updated every week with new Signals until our searchable tool is properly built out.
* * *
The Signals below are in reverse chronological order from the date we published them (i.e., newest Signals at the top!). These were last updated on 11/14/19.
The nontraditional liquor scene has never been hotter, with spiked seltzers winning the summer and alcohol-infused coffee gaining steam. Like these successful beverages, boozy tea is expected to grow next year and beyond.
What’s next? If you believe that American trends start in New York and migrate elsewhere, then boozy tea may be ready to explode. The spike in search traffic is most pronounced in New York. Owl’s Brew is the foremost brand, but the market is still relatively open.
Ever heard of Allbirds? Native Shoes is another environmentally conscious DTC sneaker brand. Its products are made from 50% recycled knit and are 100% waterproof.
What’s next? Brands are going green in order to drive more carbon-conscious demand (sometimes referred to as “greenwashing”). Amazon has vowed to be carbon neutral by 2040, while Nike has already created a carbon-neutral facility. Others are developing new materials, like duedilatte and qmilch, fabrics made from milk. Meanwhile, carbon-zero products, like the carbon-negative bracelet are made with carbon captured from the air.
Despite 110k monthly searches, gochujang hasn’t hit the dinner table for much of the Western world. The fermented hot pepper sauce has been a cornerstone of Korean cuisine for thousands of years, known for its simultaneous sweet, savory, and spicy profile. Sometimes referred to as the “Korean ketchup” or “Korean sriracha,” gochujang is getting 👀 alongside the rise of Korean cuisine.
What’s next? Korean dishes like kimchi, bibimbap, and bulgogi have also risen in popularity. Restaurants are increasingly incorporating exotic flavors into their dishes, like the KPOP burger, while others are capitalizing on this interest through worldly subscription boxes.
Scroll through enough Instagrams and you’re bound to find this fixture of K-beauty: a facial mask made of anything from cotton to coconut pulp that acts as a moisturizer.
What’s next: With celebrities advocating to use sheet masks once a day, demand is likely to continue to accelerate. There’s a market for sheet masks on the low end and high end.
Across the alt-milk market, tigernut milk is relatively unknown. The drink is highly popular in Nigeria, but is only just beginning to touch the shores of the United States and the United Kingdom. The fibre-filled superfood is rich in vitamins, but also vegan-friendly.
What’s next: Similar to other “nuts,” tigernuts can be made into milk, but also alt-versions of butter and flour, both of which are taking off in searches. Others are repurposing the product to tigernut pancakes, ice cream, or even burgers.
When’s the last time you had had a long airport layover? With any luck, you awkwardly slept across a row of three seats. If the airport gods felt like tossing in the “dream block” armrest, you likely spent your time pounding coffee in the Starbucks.
Luckily, some airports have started investing in sleeping pods, which typically go for anywhere from $10-20 euro an hour.
What’s next: The airport layover hasn’t been disrupted in years. Although pods can be found in a number of airports, they are still facing some resistance due to revenue concerns. There’s opportunity to dream up new airport experiences that generate additional revenue, like exercise classes or healthy lounge food.
You’ve heard of CBD, but have you heard of the equally legal kava? Unlike popular plant species kratom (which has also gained popularity), kava isn’t addictive and is considered relatively safe. The Western-Pacific plant—also referred to as the intoxicating pepper—can have similar social-inducing effects as alcohol, without the heavy hangover. Others are using the plant to reduce anxiety, relax muscle tension, or improve sleep.
What’s next: In an age when non-alcoholic beer is gaining attention, so are kava bars. There are currently around 100 kava bars dispersed around the US––yet, despite 12.1k searches for “kava drink” each month, there are entire states without a kava presence. Kava is often consumed through beverages, either through powder form or steeping, but there’s a world of kava products that are waiting to be created.
Sun protection has finally become trendy, but people still aren’t sold on oily lotions. Instead, interest has turned toward powder sunscreen. Powder sunscreen companies say their products are “skin-friendly”––as they’re designed to sit on top of your skin instead of penetrating your pores.
What’s next: Powder sunscreen isn’t exactly a chemical revolution. In fact, the active ingredients in sunscreen, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, start as a white powder before they are dispersed into liquid sunscreen. Look out for other novel skin-protection products that rethink the use of these chemicals, ranging from scalp spray to sunscreen sticks.
Search interest for this pattern, which consists of speckles against a solid background, has been on a steady incline since last year.
Next steps: Terrazzo was traditionally a type of flooring. It is now being used on various household goods, rugs, clothing, blankets, and just about anything. Like makeup.
In an era where health is top of mind, would you believe there’s a product that is vegan, gluten-free, zero trans-fat, and non-GMO that doesn’t taste like cardboard? Vegan Rob creates “puffs” spanning everything from brussel sprouts to moringa to cauliflower puffs, or even asparagus or spinach & matcha chips.
What’s next: As people hop on the vegan or keto diets, they don’t lose their affinity for snacking. Companies are creating a new wave of products that replace carbs for vegetables to support the growing appetite for products like chickpea snacks, zucchini noodles, and avocado fries.
Search Engine Optimization has evolved into a dynamic ecosystem over the years. As the landscape becomes more saturated, professionals look for new tools to elevate their pursuit of #traffic. Keywords Everywhere has gained significant attention since launch in 2017, quickly picking up over 3k referring domains and nearly 1m downloads.
What’s next: Keywords Everywhere provides results, like search volume and cost per click, across a multitude of platforms, including Amazon, eBay, YouTube, and, of course, Google. In essence, the tool allows you to do passive keyword research while you’re navigating the web. Keep an eye out for other tools that provide native insight in the browser.
Whether you call it stimulus control or, sigh, dopamine fasting, the startup community is realizing the need to take temporary fasts from the objects and activities that give us quick pleasure. The interest has been strong in California, New York, Texas, and Florida.
What’s next: Therapists have been advocating this concept for years, but a wellness company that includes ideas and tips for stimulus control and dopamine fasting in its practice could stand out.
Ever longed for a 30k-foot cocktail that wasn’t just vodka à la tomato juice? People have been searching for airplane cocktail kits—small packages designed to allow you to create your own cocktail mid-air, whether it’s a margarita or a hot toddy.
What’s next: A quick Google search only surfaces one major competitor, W&P, which prices their kits at $24 apiece. Yep, you heard right. Each TSA-compliant cocktail costs more than one bought in downtown NYC, even though it doesn’t include the alcohol and you mix it yourself. There’s room for more players to come in at lower price points and to diversify the cocktail options.
One of the many K-beauty revolutions is making its way West. Acne is a universal phenomenon, impacting 90% of the world at some point in their life, and the pimple-prone are looking for alternative solutions. Pimple patches are small, hydrocolloid bandages designed to absorb fluid from the zit, while preventing contamination. Imagine dot stickers, but transparent and surprisingly good for your skin.
What’s next: Companies are starting to launch specialized product lines, by incorporating healing chemicals like tea tree oil and hyaluronic acid. Others, like Starface and Squish, are new-age brands looking to make acne recovery trendy.
Own an older car but still interested in having a backup camera? FenSens has you covered. The company makes sensors that you can install on your license plate––which, when paired with your smartphone, help you make sure you don’t hit anyone when you back up. Its referring domains and organic traffic are both trending up.
What’s next: Since 2018, backup cameras have been required on all new cars. But for people who still have older cars, wireless sensor technology will be in high demand.
This brand new Seattle startup has created a decaf pouch, similar to a tea bag, that removes caffeine from any cup of coffee while keeping the taste. Its referring domains are bolting upward.
What’s next: Health-conscious millennials who want to calm down from daily pressures may decide to cut back on caffeine, just as they have with alcohol. A craft decaf coffee company in Britain, Decadent Decaf, has experienced 100% growth rates and made £250k last year.
Honey, I shrunk the kitchen. A niche trend of miniature cooking has been gaining traction through social media, where people are making entire meals the size of a thumb. YouTubers like Miniature Cusina currently sport 1.5m subscribers, while Instagram accounts like tinykitchentm have 2.2m followers.
What’s next: People love tiny things. There’s opportunity to get in on the mini-cooking trend or to dream up the next miniature product wave. From tiny construction supplies to tiny art materials, people are buying these bite-sized products.
People want new workout options, and the pilates reformer has gotten attention. Invented by the pilates founder, the machine is equipped with a moving carriage, attached by a set of springs, which allow for a wide range of exercises geared at building strength and flexibility.
What’s next: People can purchase these machines for a few hundred dollars. Perhaps more compelling, gyms are selling classes at double the price of non-reformer classes.
Avani Eco has developed cassava starch bags, completely petroleum-free products which compost in 30 to 90 days or even dissolve in water within a few months. They’ve already partnered with large brands, including Heineken and Hyatt.
Next steps: Nearly 300m tons of plastic are produced annually, of which an estimated 50% is single-use. Bali recently banned single-use plastics, and new solutions will likely emerge worldwide.
Collagen, a protein best known for plumping and smoothing skin, now has a secondary use: a health ingredient in food and drink, including in protein bars and smoothies. After years of steady search interest, interest for collagen has rapidly increased this year.
Next steps: The increasing popularity of collagen highlights the growing intersection of food and beauty. Ingredients associated with cosmetics are being used in foods, such as activated charcoal in drinks. And food ingredients are being used in cosmetics, such as oat milk shampoo and matcha antioxidant masks.
Fast fashion is getting even faster. URBN, the company behind Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People, recently launched its subscription rental service, Nuuly. The service allows customers to pay $88 a month and get 6 clothing items in return.
Next steps: Combining the beloved subscription-based recurring revenue model, we’ll likely see other top brands hop on the CaaS (Clothing as a Service) bandwagon. Le Tote and Menlo Club already offer similar services.
Are we in for a cat boom? We’re paws-itively sure of it (sorry!). Swiss company HypoPet AG has created the HypoCat vaccine, which coaxes a cat’s immune system into producing less of a protein that causes allergic reactions in 10% of humans. Search interest in HypoCat spiked after updates on the vaccine last month.
Early adopters: The vaccine is not expected to be available until 2022. US cat ownership has already increased by 20%, to 47m, since 2011. HypoCat will likely increase ownership further, creating more opportunities for pet-specific and cat-specific industries.
Mysterious deaths and illnesses have been tied to vaping the last several weeks in the US, and New York became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. In India, lawmakers proposed a full-scale ban expected to be passed in November. Searches for vaping alternatives, as well as for related concepts like quitting vaping, have skyrocketed.
Early adopters: People who quit vaping may try other nicotine substitutes, like gum or patches. Those who go cold turkey are often recommended to try everything from increased water intake to carrots to CBD oil.
Jeuveau is a French Botox alternative recently approved by the FDA that targets frown lines between the eyebrows. Its referring domains have increased substantially after being at zero at the beginning of the summer.
Next steps: Botox has been the gold standard for reducing wrinkles, and Jeuveau has joined treatments like Dysport and Xeomin in trying to replicate its success. Jeuveau is typically the least expensive and has also used a millennial-centric marketing scheme. Botox-related procedures are up 800% since 2000, in part because millennials seek preventative injections.
Millennials who paired up on Tinder need tech for the relationship phase. Lasting, an app, offers 5-minute couples therapy sessions. Referring pages for Lasting have gone from almost nothing in January to more than 10k this month.
What’s next: Living is one of several startups geared toward relationship help (there’s also Pathshare and Honeydue). Expect demand for other online tools that target particular aspects of relationships to grow as tech-savvy generations settle down.
Yes, personal trainers have been around for a long time. But searches for trainers keep growing at a steady rate. Another reason to think we’re still at the beginning of their demand? Kinesiology and Exercise Science has been the fastest growing major for junior colleges and four-year colleges since 2010, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education analysis.
Early adopters: Personal training could migrate online—truly “near you”—à la spinning with Peloton. No similar service yet exists for personal training, although individual trainers have started offering their work online.
Renaissance is a points program for listening to music. It tracks users’ streams on Spotify and YouTube and gives merchandise and other rewards for listening to certain artists (example: signed posters by the rap artist NF). Some users like Renaissance purely as a way to keep track of the songs they’ve listened to.
What’s next: Rewards programs have become popular for many products outside of credit cards and air travel. Uber and Lyft, along with many smaller companies, are using them, as CB Insights recently detailed.
Worldwide, particularly in Asia, demand has been rising for companies that deliver medicine to people’s doors. Search interest has picked up since 2017, peaking to its highest levels yet this summer. Unlike in the US, the market is less established in other countries.
Early adopters: GrabExpress, in Singapore, recently partnered with WhiteCoat to increase its delivery capabilities. Milkbasket, which is closing $50m in investments, might start delivering medicine in India.
Plastic bag use at the checkout aisle has declined for years. Now people are searching for alternatives to those small plastic bags in the produce section. Search volume has gone from almost nothing in 2017 to more than 10k searches per month.
Early adopters: Vandoona, which makes mesh produce bags, has gotten ink in BoingBoing and the Huffington Post.
Printify is a leader in the new field of on-demand printing. It lets users create products for their own shop (unlike CafePress, Teespring, etc.) and then takes care of the shipping and fulfillment. Referring domains have shot up at an almost vertical-line level in the last 18 months.
What’s next: Printify recently integrated with eBay. It had previously integrated with Shopify and Etsy.
Beyond Meat and Impossible have perfected plant-based burgers and chicken. No leader has emerged for bacon, which has an easier taste to replicate given its salt-heavy flavor. Search interest is exploding.
Early movers: THIS, a plant-based food manufacturer, launched a vegan bacon product in the spring and has received about $3m in funding.
This Dutch bicycle company has a long-term bikeshare product, charging a fee to let customers rent a bike for a month at a time. Swapfiets’ organic search traffic has gone from almost nothing in summer 2017 to 21k searches/month. Referring domains have increased similarly. It has big expansion plans in Europe.
What’s next: Swapfiets, which has ~130k subscribers, is plotting moves to more European countries, Japan, and possibly the US.
Search traffic for hearing aids has picked up steadily in recent years, and millions of people with hearing problems don’t have hearing aids. We explore this Signal in greater depth below. (Link)
Early movers: Audicus, which sells D2C hearing aids, made about $10m last year.
High-protein cereals are making a comeback. The average monthly search numbers for “keto cereal” total 8k and are up nearly 100% from early this year and multiples higher than summer 2017.
Node makes sustainable modular homes. The company is growing in popularity because its prefab homes are made with non-toxic materials and have energy-efficient systems. Backlinks to their website have skyrocketed this summer.
L-theanine is a compound found naturally in certain teas. It’s a relaxant and supposed to help people fight anxiety and stress. Searches for L-theanine total about 65k monthly and have steadily increased over the last several years.