DNVB (or Digital Naiver Vertical Brands) encompass many different aspects from mattresses to fashion startups. These brands have a quick formula for success:
- Find a niche underserved by the big names (from a easy-to-use oven to fitted male jeans) or a big frustration (how to chose the right mattress?)
- Develop an integrated, vertical business where you master as much as possible the value chain from production to distribution
- Be digital first and think your product as something that should be sold first online and then, maybe, in stores
- Put the customer at the heart of your strategy and communication. This can be translated as simply as: develop a community around an issue and use it to build products that are a beautiful answer to it
That being said, food was not at the heart of the DNVB movement. We could find some startups adopting DNVB codes in food replacement (Soylent, Huel, Feed), cookware (June, Misen) and snacks. However, on the last couple of years, new food supplements startups are starting to successfully use this codes. The best example certainly is Olly, selling functional gummies. With this brand, you don’t buy vitamins anymore with the anoiance of finding the right mix of suited to your goals. Instead, you buy funny, tasty and coloured sweets with functions such as appealing as “goodbye stress”, “undeniable beauty” or “healthy sleep” ). Olly made $80m in sales in 2017 and may have doubled this figure in 2018. It was acquired by Unilever in early 2018.
This huge and quick success has created a lot of appetite for new functional supplement brands all over the world. Here are a few recent examples:
- Hims, a US-based startup founded in 2017 is developing a range of products for men’s delicate issues (from hair loss to erectile dysfunction). To date the startup as raised an impressive $197m. Since, many have followed, such as Asystem with a recent $4m funding.
- Les Miraculeux, a French early stage startup is venture is this business with a range of products which remind of Olly’s. We had the opportunity to experiment them. If I can’t assess myself the beauty effect, energy and sleep gummies are quite effective.
- Care Of, another US startup, founded in 2016 is marketing personalised supplements. It has already raised $42.2m. We can observe many copycats (developing more or less the same idea on another market) such as Cuure in France.
However, when personalisation enter in the process, we can wonder how successful such ventures can be as they loose access to retail. It remains hard to imagine personalised vitamins in the stores themselves, for now at least. Most of DNVB brands initially develop only, but need the store experience to grow. The most telling way could be Olly which online sales accounts for less than 10%.