Wall Street Journal: P&G Bets People Will ‘Swash’ Clothes

Procter &Gamble is betting shoppers will spend nearly $500 and find a spot in their homes for a machine more than 4 feet tall, all in the name of avoiding laundering or dry cleaning their favorite blouses and slacks.

Swash is a new release from the consumer-products giant, maker of Tide and Febreze, in partnership with Whirlpool. The tall and thin device, which is large enough to hold one men’s extra-large suit jacket, uses gel-filled pods to help neutralize odors, remove wrinkles and restore a garment’s fit.

It isn’t meant to replace laundering or dry cleaning, the companies say, just delay them. That convenience comes with a hefty price tag: $499 for the machine, plus $6.99 for a 12-pack of pods, each good for one use only. The machine is sold at Bloomingdale’s and will be available next month at other retailers.

Swash’s pods come in three scents: Awaken, Recharge and Unwind. Proctor & Gamble

The goal is to snag what P&G sees as a new laundry consumer: the re-wearer, says Mike Grieff, P&G’s research and development director for new business creation and innovation. Two decades ago, the idea of wearing clothes several times before washing them had a negative stigma, he says.

“Today, it’s smart. Why would I wash something and go through the process if it’s really, really not that dirty?”

It’s a new brand at a time when P&G has said it would be cutting half of its brands to focus on its biggest businesses. P&G declined to comment on the future of individual brands, including Swash.

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TechCrunch: Flat Club Launches ‘Priceline For P2P Rental’, Allows Guests To Post Requests

Apartment rentals and sharing startup Flat Club has launched a radically new function which we think is pretty cool. It’s created a sort of ‘Priceline for peer to peer rentals’ called LiveDemand. Instead of hosts posting listings, guests post requests for accommodation and hosts then can pick and choose which guests to make offers to. Peer to peer marketplaces like AirBnB typically run in the reverse direction.

Flat Club started in the university space and landed $1.5M investment last year, but is gradually expanding its model into others area.

Prior to launching LiveDemand, FlatClub says it trialled the feature with 400 selected hosts, found that inside the first four weeks more than 1000 requests were posted by guests looking for accommodation for an average of 61 nights. Cities with the highest demand were London, New York and Munich.

It also says that hosts who used the LiveDemand feature received 30% more bookings than average. First time hosts are twice as active in making offers rather than having to wait for guests to come to them.

FlatClub says it now has has 75,000 members, 50 university partnerships, 15,000 listings, and an average stay of 30 nights (comparing to 4 nights on Airbnb)

Watch this business model get copied by others. We think it’s very interesting, especially if it was transferred to a mobile, location-based environment, which could put it into the HotelTonight space.

TechCrunch: FlatClub, An Airbnb For Elite Universities, Lands $1.5M Investment To Scale Up

Last year FlatClub, a sort of Airbnb for top university students and their alumni,launched across 30 U.S. and UK universities (such as Columbia Business School, INSEAD, King’s College). It’s now raised $1.5million from a network of Angels including Jeremy Coller of Coller Capital, Professor Eli Talmor of London Business School and David Wolfe of BrandJourney and InterCapital.

Flat-Club takes a 6-15 percent charge but doesn’t charge the host. The average stay is almost a month, whereas Airbnb is a few nights. After launching first in London it now has now has 50,000 verified members (members have to have a university email address), and features properties from alumni of more than 50 of the world’s top universities, including London School of Economics, London Business School, University College London, King’s College and New York University.

Hosts on Flat-Club can choose who see their postings – for instance, only alumni of specific universities – allowing for a more trusted experience. Trust is important when you are renting out an apartment. Research by UCL found that only 10 percent of private people will become hosts under the Airbnb model. FlatClub says it can double this rate to 20%.

The largest club is the London Business School Club with 2,000 members (10% of the entire university community – alumni & students). FlatClub says that last year members of the community made $250K in renting out their place to trusted guests.

The investment will enable FlatClub, which was established by former London Business School graduates Nitzan Yudan and Tomer Kalish, to increase the number of listings from 10,000 to 30,000 rooms and apartments available for short stays within 12 months, launching a new technology platform to further expand its presence across Europe and the USA.

Examiner.com: BrandJourney Venturing to launch online pet owner’s community

Cats and their pet parents are taking over the Internet and professionals and companies who wish to interact with them are responding to the growing demand for reliable information and useful products. Victoria Simpson, Marketing Coordinator at BrandJourney Venturing states,

BrandJourney Venturing is an innovation company that works with global companies to bring innovative ideas to life… [They] recognized the need for pet owners to have a community where they can connect with pet owners like themselves and have a trusted community of pet professionals.

With this in mind, BrandJourney Venturing is launching Petocracy, a new pet-related online community, on Saturday, February 23, 2013, with the goal of being, “THE one-stop community for cat and dog owners.”

Petocracy will provide helpful tools and answers to cat questions (both cat and dog, but this article is about cats) from veterinary professionals and pet industry experts, as well as a platform for pet parents and Petocracy’s professionals to interact with each other. They plan on focusing on health and wellness issues and training and grooming tips. Resident experts, “every day pet professionals,” like Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DVM, owner of Manhattan Cat Specialists and the veterinarian of Cat Fancy’s Ask The Veterinarian, will offer advice and answer pet-related questions. Because Petocracy will grow in order to meet pet parents’ needs, Simpson says they’re, “currently implementing a plan to allow pet professionals to submit their credentials for our team to review.”

The benefits of joining Petocracy are:

  • Belonging to a community online where pet parents may meet pet professionals.
  • The ability to ask questions and receive well-informed answers.
  • Opportunities to connect with fellow pet parents.
  • It’s free.

Petocracy will be organized so those who join will receive personalized content based upon the their cats’ issues and the questions they ask. This will be accomplished by utilitizing information pet parents provide in their profiles that will include details about their cats. In addition, the more cat-related questions Petocracy members ask, the more cat-related content Petocracy will offer. Plus, there are links and areas to start a conversation in various places so users may interact with fellow pet parents and resident professionals. An example of tailored content is if a pet parent has an overweight cat, her pet parent will receive information to help learn about weight loss and become a better pet parent.

New York Times: Should We All Go Gluten-Free?

The singer was a no-show. The Gluten Free Expo in Sandy, Utah — one of the nation’s largest events dedicated to foods untainted by wheat — was going to have to start without the national anthem. But Debbie Deaver, the expo’s founder, didn’t have time to worry about that. The song, to be honest, was the least of her problems.

Deaver had slept four hours in the last three days. The 34-year-old woman — who has celiac disease and therefore must avoid eating gluten, a key protein in wheat — was running on prayer and Diet Dr Pepper. She needed sleep, and syrup.

A day earlier, a shipment of maple syrup failed to arrive, forcing her to scramble to find a topping suitable for the expo’s enormous gluten-free pancake breakfast. A last-minute donation of 35 cases of marionberry syrup would have to do. And then there was the issue of actual attendees. With the sky spitting rain outside and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees on a dark October morning, Deaver was becoming convinced that no one was coming to her expo in suburban Salt Lake City. “I’m getting nervous,” she admitted as she scanned the empty concourse of the sprawling, glass-walled South Towne Exposition Center just 30 minutes before the show started. “People aren’t showing up.”

But seemingly all at once, they did. When Deaver opened the front doors at 9 a.m., she was stunned by the huge crowd waiting to get inside. At the sight of these people — her people — Deaver stopped cold in her Puma sneakers and began to cry.

“I’m just so excited about those gluten-free pancakes,” she announced to the crowd. “Is everybody ready to eat some pancakes?”

Four hundred people surged into the expo hall in the first 10 minutes, 1,200 in the first hour and nearly 6,000 by the end of the single-day event. They came from as far away as Arizona and Nebraska, like pilgrims to a sort of gluten-free Mecca. Once inside, many were soon listening to one man: Dom Alcocer, a 33-year-old marketing manager, who stood on a chair in an expo booth, barking at the attendees and throwing gluten-free granola bars into the crowd.

“Ohhhhh! Dropped pass!” Alcocer shouted to one person. And then, to another: “Nice catch!”

The crest on Alcocer’s golf shirt said Gluten Freely, as did the sign above the booth promoting a Web site of the same name. But Alcocer wasn’t here representing some Internet start-up. He was from General Mills, the Minnesota-based food-manufacturing giant, which perhaps more than any other mainstream corporation has begun focusing on gluten-free consumers. In the last three years, General Mills — best known for Cheerios, Betty Crocker and that wheat-filled Pillsbury Doughboy — has put gluten-free labels on more than 300 products already made without gluten, reformulated the recipes of five Chex cereals, introduced gluten-free dessert and pancake mixes and, most recently, asked Alcocer to make GlutenFreely.com America’s go-to Web site for the gluten-free life.

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US News & World Report: General Mills Tries Gluten-Free Sales in the Cloud

At General Mills, a new sales experiment is made possible with new technologies.

In 2008, executives of the food giant began to notice that people with sensitivity to gluten were finding it difficult to locate foods that lack this protein, found naturally in some grains. A year later, the company launched a website called LiveGlutenFreely.com that provided product information and other resources to people seeking a gluten-free lifestyle.

For an international food company that normally markets its iconic brands—including Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Wheaties and Yoplait—on supermarket shelves, the concept was an ambitious experiment. To reach the growing demographic of consumers demanding gluten-free ingredients due to Celiac disease, allergies, or other health or dietary concerns, General Mills would relaunch its site as a new online distribution channel called “Gluten Freely.”

With Gluten Freely, General Mills aims to tap a rapidly growing market. According to the research firm Euromonitor International, the gluten-free market reached nearly $1.3 billion in U.S. sales, and $2.6 billion worldwide, in 2011—more than double the 2005 levels. Those figures are projected to rise by at least five percent this year, and to more than $1.5 billion for the United States and $3.1 billion worldwide in 2015.

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Internet Retailer: General Mills sends out the Red Spoon Squad and pushes gluten-free via e-commerce sites

Two new e-commerce initiatives by the big manufacturer of packaged food products.

With help from “cloud” technology, General Mills Inc. is driving a new e-commerce strategy. The first two examples are the Betty Crocker Red Spoon Squad and Gluten Freely sites—two e-commerce operations targeting niche markets.

With RedSpoonSquad.com, the company is testing a site where shoppers can learn about new recipes, get personalized online instructions suited to their cooking experience, and arrange for visits to their homes from Red Spoon Squad experts.

Computer tablet in hand, Red Spoon Squad members will arrive armed with cooking tips and a mobile app that will display recipes, show cooking demonstration videos and process online purchases of suitable Betty Crocker products, says David Wolfe, managing director of BrandJourney Venturing, the web technology development firm that is building and temporarily operating the new sites for General Mills. Red Spoon Squad experts have started serving consumers in test markets including Virginia Beach, Va.

BrandJourney has also developed GlutenFreely.com, which launched in March after a six-month development period, Wolfe says. Consumers can shop the site for 400 General Mills products, including breads, cakes, pasta, pizza and other foods, that are free of gluten—a protein naturally found in grains that helps dough rise and gives certain foods a chewy texture.

Gluten is known to cause celiac disease, with symptoms including digestive problems and fatigue in some people—about 1 in 133, according to General Mills. Yet gluten-free products are not always easy to find, a void the company is seeking to correct through its new e-commerce site.

BrandJourney employs the Microsoft Azure technology platform of web-based Microsoft software. It strives to make its new ventures revenue-producing businesses within 12 months before handing over the new ventures for their clients to operate, Wolfe says.

Microsoft Azure Blog: Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Dom Alcocer, Marketing Manager at General Mills

MSDN:  Tell us about General Mills.

Alcocer:  With more than 33,000 employees, General Mills is one of the world’s leading food companies. Our brands include Betty Crocker, Cheerios, Nature Valley and Pillsbury.

MSDN:  What led the company to develop Gluten Freely?

Alcocer: Gluten, a protein naturally found in certain grains common in a modern diet, can cause health problems for a small but growing number of people who have sensitivities to it, including those with celiac disease.  We realized that people with celiac disease, and others who have some kind of gluten sensitivity or who just want to live a gluten-free lifestyle, were having particular difficulty in simply locating all of the great foods that they need to make this diet come to life for them. They couldn’t find places to buy the products, and they had to spend a lot of time sifting and sorting through the Internet to find recipes and other information about gluten-free diets.

In order to assist these customers, we wanted to create a direct-to-consumer online channel that would allow them to buy gluten-free products directly from General Mills.

MSDN:  What is Gluten Freely?

Alcocer: Gluten Freely is a cloud-based consumer business channel for gluten-free products and related information. The site gives consumers access to a broad range of resources—including recipes, blogs, community forums, and medical facts about gluten—along with coupons and discounts for our online store where they can choose from a selection of more than 400 gluten-free products, which are then shipped directly to the consumer’s door. We sell both our own products along with non–General Mills products in an effort to provide the largest possible selection to consumers.

MSDN:  Why did you choose to build Gluten Freely on Windows Azure?

Alcocer:  BrandJourney Venturing, the solution provider we worked with on this project, evaluated possible technology platforms and recommended we use a cloud-based solution for speed, flexibility, cost, and scalability reasons. In the end, we felt the best route to go was to run onWindows Azure.

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